Business Model Need

Day 326 Week 47 Q4 Thursday, November 23, 2023

If creative outliers want to become sustainable innovators capable of harvesting infinity, they need to have a viable business model. I know it may hurt you to think of your artistic output or invention as a product to be deployed in the world, but the fact remains that if you cannot deploy anything in the world, you cannot get paid as a creative person.

I hate to give you this terrible news, but no matter how gifted, brilliant, talented, and creative you are, you have to get traction. This means you have to actually manifest something tangible, and you have to get compensated for it. If you have an agent or a publisher or a boss or somebody else representing you, they can be the ones who own the business model and do all the extra work to generate revenue, and perhaps this will shield you from that part of the process.

But if you want to have the maximum degrees of freedom in your life, the more control you have over your intellectual property, the more significant profit you will have. Now if you make it big time as a world-famous person, then the model changes, and you don’t have to be responsible for all of those things. But let’s face it: even if you are a creative outlier and manage to invent something, get one of the 650,000 patents issued every year, or publish one of the million books that come out every year, you do have to face the statistics that the best majority of these are not profitable. Only 2 to 3% of all patents filed generate revenue. Filing for and prosecuting a patent can be an expensive proposition, and knowing that you only have a slight chance of financial success may turn you away from that expensive, time-consuming process. Similarly, an even smaller percentage of books that are published are profitable.

The opportunity cost for your time and effort, as well as the financial investment required to produce new works, inventions, prototypes, processes, and anything that is a breakthrough, is significant. You may also love doing this, and even if it doesn’t have any chance of paying off financially, it may be worth it psychologically to you if you have the resources and energy to make it happen.

But if you want permission to continue to do this activity you love and do not have a deep-pocketed patron or investor with one,  then you must have a business model. This may sound disturbing to you. It certainly was to me for many years, but eventually, I realized if I wanted to get anything done in the world, I was going to have to do two things that were different than my natural inclinations. Become an extrovert with a business plan.

I had to learn how to be an extrovert, even though I was born naturally as an introvert. For much of my life, I would much rather stay home and play the piano and read a book than go to a party or pitch an idea. 

I found out pretty early on that if I wanted anybody to listen to any of my ideas, I was going to have to go out and present them. So, I learned how to be an extrovert out of self-defense.  Similarly, I also had to learn that of what I was doing was not profitable. Eventually, I was going to have to stop doing it. 

The combination of these two things made it clear that if I wanted to continue to be creative,  I had to learn how to communicate with others and sell my ideas. This meant I had to learn how to make my ideas emotionally relevant to others by embedding them within some kind of a story where the narrative at least hinted at some benefit to the people I was attempting to get on board. If there is no conceivable, sustainable model, it becomes challenging to get other stakeholders to invest in you financially or emotionally. Most of the time, sustainability requires some sort of fiscal component, and that, in general, is not a good enough reason to motivate me or most creative outliers to do something. We tend to need to do something because we want to, and then if it also makes sense in terms of sustainability, that’s a bonus.

This is why there is a need for creative outliers to have a business model to continue to sustain their creativity. This creativity is also a significant factor in creating meaning in their lives.

Selling Time

Day 320 Week 44 Q4 Thursday, November 16, 2023

Have you ever finally completed a work, which could be a product that represents who you are in the world and what you want to be, and that you are proud enough of the result to go out and really sell it? And to also have the understanding that you are also selling yourself with this product.

It is a glorious feeling. All creative outliers have to earn a living along with everyone else unless they have inherited wealth or have a patron. I prefer the stakeholder path, where a group of people helps you, and you also try to make sure they get something in return for helping you. Just as I do not want to receive money without turning it in, which is why I am no longer interested in running a nonprofit. I am not comfortable asking for money, but I am comfortable earning money.

This is not so simple. I am not comfortable earning money doing something that I either do not want to do or do not think is producing any value in the world. I had no problem going out and selling the acoustic wave piano because I knew that it would positively change people’s lives, and it did. It also created a brand new mark for the self-contained electro-acoustical piano, which to this day sells at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, if not billions internationally.

That product came into being almost 40 years ago, and it was the last product. I was really excited about selling. I was also excited about bringing audio to the computer world and selling it while working at Apple.  But this is a different feeling. This time, I am not working for a large company. I am working for myself. I own all of the intellectual property, rights, and credit; although I had a lot of help, it is indisputably my work, and I can finally say that to the world, and this will not be the last one. This is the first of many.

This is clearly the path for me. I do want to have a me-sized company with a single person; although there could be contractors, there will not be people with equity. There is a single person in charge, and it is me. I very much like this feeling, and I am very much up to accepting the responsibility to make it succeed or fail.

The democratization of technology has reduced the barriers to entry to commence new enterprises. You do not necessarily need to have a manufacturing plant or a laboratory, or even a studio. You can have an idea and some skills and judgment and some capital and a lot of hours of work, and you can make something happen.

And as my father-in-law says, Go Forth Mightily!

Chaperoning and Championing

Day 310 Week 44 Q4 Tuesday, November 7, 2023

When we have new ideas or create new inventions, processes, music, art, or literature, we have to champion whatever it is, we created to get it out in the world until the world begins to ask us for our input, which usually doesn’t last very long, unless you become very famous and even that doesn’t have a long have Life usually.

Entrepreneurs have become so used to having to champion their ideas that we get locked into transmit mode and sometimes stop listening. This is not a good way to convince anybody of anything but when I am speaking of here is a different although related issue. Many people know they have to champion as well as to listen, but there is another function that we get to play because after all, these outputs are in someway our children, and they require parenting in the form of being a chaperone once in a while.

For example, you have written some thing which is getting into print and can assume that what we see on our screen will also be what we see printed on physical media like paper. This is never the case. Things look different on the surface, which is reflecting, light as compared to a screen, which is emitting light. Colors change, contrast, changes, darkness, and hue change. And if you really want to have some fun, try to get gradients to come out on paper the way they do on the screen.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

This is why you have to do to press checks. Will you look at a printed out proof of something before you begin to replicate it and make many copies. It sounds so simple to send a file to a printer and expect what comes out to look like that file. But all experienced graphic designers and artists know this is not the case.

Authors, on the other hand, may be surprised if they are more in tune to the actual words, then the colors and shading and spacing of what they have written, all of which can be subject to change in ways that you did not expect. In general, the result is worse than you expected not better.

This is why, before mess producing anything printed at all, you must get a press proof, which is actually printed on the materials that you would like to be printing upon. The same holds true for prototyping and pilot runs before attempting to mess produce anything.

I called this to your attention, because even if you have convinced everybody that they want you’re out, but your job is not done you still have to chaperone it to defend the integrity of your creation, or it will be altered in ways that may not please you. Don’t leave this to chance. Try it out.

Do you have to be both a champion and a chaperone, especially in this difficult age.

Infinity Ignored

Day 293 Week 42 Q4 Saturday, October 21, 2023

Sometimes, you have a lot of low-hanging fruit around you. There could be folders full of ideas, unanswered email opportunities, and crucial documents to read that you actually want to read. You could have new, untried, but already-acquired tools and invitations you have not responded to. But even in the face of all of these, have you ever chosen to embark upon some new exploration instead?

Don’t beat yourself up about it. As a curious person, the unknown can beckon seductively. If it is leaving your town, home, job, or primary relationship due to wanderlust, you may be very sorry. But hey, what is the harm in reading a different book than the one you already started? It’s just another victimless crime, right?

Some of the time, we do need to ignore infinity and other times, we need to pursue it. It may be difficult for typical people to understand these behaviors because creative outliers tend to have more options and more appetites as well. How do you balance them or, more preferably, integrate them?

Just because you live in the neighborhood where Infinity meets Main Street does not mean you should take all of the turns in front of and available to you. But you do notice them, right? I preserve parts of my day and parts of my week for exploration and not getting done that I already am involved in.

If I completely ignore new explorations for a few days, I eventually find myself staying up three hours later than I wanted to just to explore. It is saner to accept the fact that I want to explore a bit every day and leave time to do so instead of having to feel guilty when I stay up so late that I wreck the next day.

Could you find yourself escaping and exploring all of the time? Certainly. Can you also crack down so hard on yourself that your self-imposed blinders reduce your joy in life because you know you have to focus on things in front of you?

I have surrendered to reading more than one book at a time, listening to or writing more than one song at the same time, or launching a new initiative before the last one is completed. When I ignore infinity, I am much less happy, even if I am getting more done. I personally have given up on the idea of trying to optimize my schedule and now schedule three hours per day for what I call being human. This time may include having lunch with a friend, doing an errand, exploring a new album or book, or all of the above.

I no longer ignore infinity, but curiously, I do feel the need to bound it; otherwise, it takes over my entire life.

At least for me, I feel compelled every day to harvest a little bit of infinity, not to totally ignore it.

Repurposed Content is King

Day 74 Week 11 Q1  Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Many creative outliers are living in the gig economy. Much of what we work on and get paid for is creating and re-articulating content. Say you are an author and have just completed a manuscript.  Have you thought about deployment? Will you publish a book, blog or magazine article? Are we talking analog paper, digital electronic or both? Can you design the cover? And how about a podcast?  Audio only, video, or the complete book narrated by who? Are you up for speaking, recording, editing, or hiring a professional narrator and production team or a narrator AI? Does your book have URLs in it? And how do you publish? There are many ways to deploy content; you should think about them as a group, not a single manifestation. 

And by the way, who is the audience or customer? Are they the Kindle Crowd or something else? If you have something to say, there are almost infinite ways to deploy your messages. This is both a gigantic opportunity and also a gigantic pain.

No one said that Harvesting Infinity was easy. But instead of thinking that these are something we have to do. Consider it something or some things we get to do. But there is, or should be, some prioritization involved. Yes, infinity is accessible, but the order does impact the costs and, therefore, the business model or business models. It is wonderful that the barriers to entry are so low to dive in and deliver content, but this also means there are not as many barriers to competition. 

If you are to prevail or even just make a buck, you need to be strategic. Even if you can learn the many skills to manifest all of these versions of your creation and insights, some orders are for better than others. It is time to remember that you are a business entity and a creative entity. Many creative outliers spend 80 to 90 percent of their energy on creating the art and only the remaining 10 to 20 percent on deployment.

There is no single approach because it depends on who you are trying to provide value to. This is true even if you create work for hire and do not own the intellectual property.  The business model has to be subordinate to the value proposition, and if they do not support each other, one or both need to change.

You may say I am not part of the gig economy, so what does it have to do with me? Most creative outliers do spend some time in the gig economy as it provides more flexibility to create than a normal full-time job unless, of course, you can command a very high rate as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or some other professional where in theory you have the flexibility except the organizations you work for tend to ask for more and more of your time.

So yes, infinity can be harvested, but strategic and tactical considerations exist. Go for it.

Harvesting Patience

Day 73 Week 11 Q1  Tuesday, March 14, 2023

There is literally an infinite amount to Harvest if you are a creative outlier, but as all farmers know, you have to wait for the crop to grow.  Of course, if you are the product yourself or are creating the product, you can not simply wait. The farmer also can not wait. Plants need to be watered, pruned and harvested, and although there may be some periods of time where the effort varies considerably, there is still the issue of patience.

You simply can not publish the book before it is written, nor eat the veggies before you grow them. The act of creation may start with the bang of commencing gestation, but you still have to wait a while for processes that are beyond your control. Immediately preceding the dot com financial meltdown, many engineers asked many investors for funding to build a prototype on the way to building a company. There were also many inexperienced investors making silly demands. When both the fledgling entrepreneur and the fledgling investor got together, really humorous conversations took place. 

The typical conversation went something like this. The entrepreneur would lead with something like, “I have invented a world-changing technology. “ And the supposedly enlightened investor sometimes said, “great, how can I help?” By the way, you may have had to speak with many investors before one answered in this manner. That much is expected, but things could then take a comic turn.

The extremely intelligent and somewhat charming engineer then said I need some money to build a prototype of my idea. To which the investor replied, “how much?” The engineer then usually said $2M because that was what they heard you should ask for. They thought they could build a working model for that much since they had never built anything before, but after all, they almost had a Ph.D. and from a “good school,” not one of those “not as good schools.”

The wanna-be investor then asked how long will it take to get money out, but more elegantly with nicer phrases such as when will break even occur, what do you think your market cap will be, and how long will it take for an exit? The first time an engineer is asked these questions, they shrug their shoulders and rapidly find out they need to know the answers to these questions. So, they go away and figure out the answers or rather guess at these fairly unknowable pseudo-facts.

So far, so good, but here is where it gets really comical. At some point, the hardware engineer says it will take me two years to assemble a team and build a working model. The software engineer would say I could do it in two months. So the investors stop talking to the hardware engineers or unbelievably say, and yes, I have actually heard this uttered, “ If we give you five million can you do it three times as fast?” And can I have 60% of the stock?

The inexperienced engineer who has never led a team before with the checkbook dangling over his head says sure. This conversation was between two people who never met a payroll and never hired or fired anyone. Unfortunately, it occurred too many, many times, and the dot com crash was the result. In my indelicate mater once asked one of these investors if he bought his wife more jewelry. Could he become a father sooner?

Sure, there is infinity to harvest, but you do have to exercise patience. 

Integrating Feedback

Day 72 Week 11 Q1  Monday, March 13, 2023

Let us say you did ask for feedback and received it. Or did not. Ask again. Or imagine you did not ask for feedback at all but reviewed it anyway. However it came in, it is valuable. What are you going to do with it? Have you thought about this before it came in? Why not? Did you not expect any? Are you in the habit of not listening? 

There are so many different types and amounts of feedback. And all of it has time-varying value. Finding out the main character is totally inappropriate for your target audience after the movie is shot is not repairable. Finding out the ending does not work might be.

When do you get what? It can be a function of when you ask. Have you thought through the optimal order to ask for feedback? Or not even asked? 

The integration job can be rather large. And can dramatically alter your path forward. Is this a million-dollar project or a thousand-dollar project? This is good to know before you start writing checks. And before you begin searching for resources. How about the sources of feedback? Will some be insulted if they are not asked until the end?

Do you have an open mind about hearing what others have to say? Or are you convinced that you are seeing something that others are not and feel compelled to proceed in spite of feedback? This can be a legitimate path, as many people will not know what you are talking about until you do it.

Have you considered the appropriate form of the project or initiative to show others?  This is a tricky dance. The asking order, the order of who you ask when the questions are asked, and more can impact the value of the feedback. It is also an inherently political process, so be aware of this.   In fact, when you are asked for feedback, also think about these things. 

Feedback is powerful and valuable, and the process can be more or less managed. It is also continual. You can ask more than once. There is a dialog here, not a series of monologs.  Also, instead of thinking of this as something you must do, think of it as something you get to do.

It can be fun as well as developmental and useful. It can also be detrimental to everyone. There are some people you really do not want to ask.  You may be finding things out too late for this time. There also may not be a next time, or there may be many times. 

Feedback is time-consuming, potentially distracting or redirecting, and potentially life-changing in more than one dimension simultaneously.

Consider how you will process and integrate feedback before you ask for it. And before you determine the asking order? Allow enough time to use feedback. It is extremely valuable, so do not neglect it.  

Integrate Feedback.

Ask for Feedback

Day 71 Week 11 Q1  Sunday, March 12, 2023

Assuming you are truly a creative outlier, I bet you know a few very interesting and intelligent people.  And you may even have had a mentor or two or three. And I bet some in your circle are interested in some of the same subjects you are. You may be involved in a flywheel or two. And if you have been around and worked on some interesting projects, you likely had stakeholders playing various roles. And I am sure some of them have provided advice that may have been solicited or perhaps not. 

Has it ever occurred to you that this group mind probably knows more than you do by yourself? There are likely many sources of feedback available to you. I wonder if you have ever consciously reached out to ask for feedback. Some of these people probably want you to succeed and will pull for you. And others might rather that you fail. And some will be more neutral and honest. 

It is probably that if you asked for authentic feedback and let those who you ask it from because you value their opinion and have communicated this, you will get more advice and comments than you can even process. You might be thinking this will slow me down, so why even ask? Or they are all too busy and important to spend any time on me or my efforts.

You might be surprised at how much people would like to help you, and yes, some of what they say will not necessarily be helpful. Even investigating why these comments have been articulated can teach you something. You still have the right to thank people for their suggestions and not use them. The act of asking for feedback is actually giving others a chance to have more skin in your game. You might be very surprised by who will comment as well s by what they have to say.

Getting into a feedback loop with external reality can never be bad. It will tell you things you need to know, even if it is just what others’ perspectives are.  This is an example of harvesting infinity. It is a way to increase the reality of your project by finding out information that may be invisible to you otherwise and may be too late to do anything with when it is recited too late in the game.\

Assuredly this feedback has value even if you do not like it. Also, you are the one who gets to choose who you request feedback from, how you communicate this and in what order. This feedback value has many dependencies, most of which relate to the order it is asked for and received. 

Some information is critical early in the process. Yes, I know you are excited about your projects, and I am too. Founders tend to get locked into transmit mode without leaving much time or room to receive.  This is a real drag for those who want to help you. You are not looking for sycophants but for people whose opinions are useful.

Ask for Feedback. It is far more likely to come and also be of higher quality when you ask for it.

Infinity Bass Case Study

Day 53 Week 8 Q1  Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Sometimes your expectations can be vastly exceeded. Here is an example from my musical path.  Trilian, an amazing piece of software by a company called Spectrasonics, allows me to play extremely authentic acoustic double bass lines from a piano-type midi keyboard controller. There are multiple reasons this qualifies for an infinity case study. Although I have professionally performed on piano and bass guitar for decades, I never felt it worthwhile to acquire, learn, house and transport an upright bass, even though they are powerful instruments. They are large, expensive, awkward, have no frets and are not flexible enough instruments for a solo gig. But they can really sound great, and guess what? There is an app for that. Actually, there are several. This one has been around for over a dozen years, which is quite long in the tooth for an app. It is also the most expensive both computationally and fiscally. But it still sounds and works better than all the rest. It also has free updates, the newest one occurring a few months ago, providing an automatic flow capture mode.

How many apps have you been able to use for fourteen years continuously? With virtually no real competition, although infrequently updated, and still having both old and new useful features, you have still not explored, despite having only gone from version 1.0 to version 1.6. In addition to bringing me from the world of play-by-ear rock bass player all of the ways to composing and scoring orchestral works, the instrument has an enormous library of different kinds of sounds transcending the traditional bass support role into lead melodic and sonically vast textures.

This single app has changed the size of my musical world, infinitely enlarging it to transcend stylistic genre silos. In case you need more of an explanation of how and why this is true, let me begin with the fact that although more people play guitars and keyboards, neither is present in as many styles of music. Everyone needs a bass player! From symphony orchestras to coffee shop duos and from rock bands to sixteen-piece jazz bands with every kind of in-between ensemble, there is always a bass, and why is this? Many reasons beginning with bass makes you dance or at least move. It defines the tonal center of the music, what key the piece is in, and also defines the rhythmic accents determining the music style. 

To have performed many times using a single app running on a laptop, continuing to blow minds without needing a station wagon to transport, more years of study to master, and automatic music composition capabilities without even having to pay for updates? This is a miracle deserving its own Infinity Case Study. 

Harvesting Infinity

Day 52 Week 8 Q1  Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Here is the deal. Humanity may be externally unbounded, but internally, well, that is another thing. Although there may be all of the food, money and energy the world needs, it is not necessarily distributed in anything remotely resembling an optimum manner. And this is okay because we can make more because we can harvest infinity.

The concept of Harvesting Infinity simply means each of us is capable of obtaining or creating precisely what is needed. However, I did not say all of it at the same time or instantaneously. Even the richest people in the history of the world did not have enough time, money and resources to accomplish what they wanted.  And this is still true today. Even with the vastly greater wealth, we always seem to feel resource constrained.

If you are a culture vulture, an information-junky or a foodie, you are in nirvana with a mind-boggling number of choices and options that far exceed your ability to participate in or consume.  Never before in history has there been so much? If you have a question, there are places to ask which will yield large numbers of answers, not all good ones, to be sure, but still, you never have to wonder alone again.

Yet many linger, living within a mental model of scarcity when they could embrace abundance. And this appears to be somewhat dependent upon geography and age. Silicon Valley is not just a place it is an attitude.  An attitude shared by a particularly prolific workforce gathered from the world’s four corners.

Innovation itself can not be reduced to an algorithm. It is more about the audacity to feel unbounded. Although many other regions have tried to emulate the success of the Silicon Valley Innovation Juggernaut, and some are succeeding to a degree, there is something contagious about feeling the powerful potential of possibility. And that something, for some strange reason, is not more prevalent even in places with plenty of capital and plenty of educated people. Maybe having nice weather all of the time is a factor, or maybe the track record of success is a factor, but it seems to be something more. Silicon Valley has the right attitude to create tomorrow; sometimes, older regions need an attitude transplant. Did they run out of steam a generation or more ago?

In the last ten years, China has somehow gotten this attitude. Perhaps it is capitalism-run-amok in a totalitarian state.  For whatever reason, China now believes it could and should own the world, and with that attitude, it will and are, in fact, well on its way to doing it.  Yet New York and New England, with unbelievable amounts of talent and capital, seem to be stalled in comparison. It is strange to travel around and get a sense of the innovation vitality of places and companies. Some have it, and some do not.

Perhaps only those who feel they have little to lose can take the necessary chances.  Third-world nations routinely pass first-world nations by. They do not have more resources or education except one – attitude. If you think you can get somewhere or have to get somewhere, then you can. And if you think change is too frightening to embrace, then you can’t. It is really quite simple.

Anyone who wants to harvest infinity can! So if you are not yet doing this – get up and do it right now – give yourself an attitude transplant!