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.

Full-Time Innovator

Day 322 Week 44 Q4 Sunday, November 19, 2023

If you are lucky, there comes a time in the life of an innovator when they become full-time. As has been previously mentioned, Innovation is a somewhat involuntary act. If you find yourself in evading all of the time, and that is not only a hobby but also your job because it has a business model that can actually sustain you, then you have become a full-time innovator.

This is not a path for the timid. It is very demanding because you are competing with other people who are just as creative and intense as you are. If you are not careful, it can get in the way of friendships, families, and other vital relationships. 

Innovation can be like other addictive activities for the same reason: it gives you something you grow to increasingly need. Be careful, or you will find yourself alone in your own world, a fate that befalls many inventors, artists, and other creative outliers. If you are going to be a sustainable full-time innovator, then you need to have some routines in life to maintain balance. If you do not, there is a real danger of burnout.

This can be exacerbated in an innovator-entrepreneur because they get their rush from Innovation, and they get their livelihood from being an entrepreneur, and these can become wrapped around each other. It is the same kind of problem as overeating, where a person can eat to live and also live to eat. We all need to eat, and most of us need to earn money as well. 

One particularly nasty trap the innovator entrepreneur can fall into is getting locked into transmit mode, where you are always speaking about what you are creating and why. The reason this is particularly nasty is because when you are locked into speaking, you stop listening. And without listening, you fall out of rapport with literally everyone.

Be on guard by being too seduced by your own ideas. You have to make sure that they have something to do with providing value to others; otherwise, incessantly speaking about them wastes everyone else’s time. And even if there is value provided to others, you still must not incessantly speak about your ideas, as it is offputting, which you will discover quickly.

One antidote I use to ameliorate this tendency is to try to ask myself all of the time, “What’s in it for We”, instead of “What’s in it for Me”. Try hard to habituate this behavior. Sure, we can be excited about what we are accomplishing, but the rest of the world doesn’t need to hear too much.

If you are a full-time innovator, there is a reasonable chance that you will end up self-employed because there are not very many jobs for full-time innovators in the world. You have to be on guard to prevent your ego from growing too much as an innovator who is also your own boss.

Entrepreneurial Artistry 

Day 299 Week 43 Q4 Friday, October 27, 2023

If you are a creative outlier, you are probably mostly focused on creating outcomes that are artistic and expressive or technical and innovative, and perhaps all four at the same time. It appears that most artists, writers, inventors, and other creative types spend much more of their energy on the thing they are creating than on the means to deliver it to the world profitably.

Have you ever considered spending 50% of your time on the business aspect? Have you applied a significant portion of your creativity to being an entrepreneur as well as to creating an excellent output?

Eventually, to be successful writers, artists, musicians, and inventors have to become small business owners. The product may be what you have created, and the product may actually be you if you are selling creative services.

I understand words like product, business, services, and being an entrepreneur may all sound like dirty words because you are a creative artist or a brilliant technical person, but I can assure you that unless you are an employee working for somebody else who is worried about all of these things, that ignoring them, will not result of you being able to pay your bills.

The people who worry about all of these things, who are often middlemen or representatives of those more creative than himself, often make for more than the people doing the creative work. If you were an artist and also owned a gallery, you would capture a lot more of the selling price of your heart if you are an author who self-publishes and worries about things like book covers, font licensing, formatting, paper, thickness, distribution channels, and other business-related issues. The difference in what you earn per book can be more than 10 times greater.

For example, a new author may receive a royalty of 4 to 8% of the selling price of a book. Say the book sells for $20. That means you will earn between $.80 and $1.60 on each book sale. But if you are the publisher and simply paying to print the book, which may cost four or five dollars,  then you will make 15 or $16 on each book sale.  

Yes, it takes a lot more effort upfront to get a book into the condition to sell, but once you have done this and set up distribution, you will literally make an order of magnitude more. If your book sells, say, 5,000 copies per year, and you are collecting royalties, it will not be enough to live on, but if you were a publisher who owns all of the rights, it would be enough to live on.

It can be highly worthwhile to be entrepreneurial in addition to being creative and artistic. Apply some of your creativity to the business side, and your life will be very different.

Pricing and Value

Day 298 Week 43 Q4 Thursday, October 26, 2023

So you have created your masterwork, invention, book, composition, artwork, or one-of-a-kind something. Now the question comes: how much can you charge for it? And how much should you charge for it? Are you the product? Or is the thing you have done the product? All of these things require you to have a business model in mind and to determine what the value of what you have done is.

The value to you and the value to your customer may not be the same. You are the seller, and they are the buyer, which means that someone other than you will ultimately determine the price that is paid.  The value can change dramatically, depending on the context. Selling snow in the winter versus melted snow in summer can have a very different value.

This is where research comes in. You have to find similar offerings and see how much value they have by seeing how much others have paid for them. Do not make the mistake of thinking you have no competition. You always have competition. Perhaps if you become extraordinarily famous and celebrated throughout the world, you will have no competition, but almost no one ever gets there.

Fortunately, we now have the Internet, where research can be conducted far more quickly than in the past. There is also a relationship between what you do and what do you think you can sell something for. And what is the strategic value of selling something? Are you trying to make money from the thing that you have made, or are you trying to use it to position yourself to be engaged to do something else?

Many creative people do not think much about pricing in value until they have completed a number of products and attempted to consummate a number of transactions. If you were to become a sustainable creator, you’re going to have to find out how to price things appropriately. If you charge too little, your reputation will be poor. If you charge too much, no one may be willing to pay for it.

The value of what you are selling may change as your reputation grows or shrinks. Therefore, it is best to investigate the value of others and their works that are most related to who you want to be in what you want to do. Try to imagine the trajectory that you will be taking over a more extended period of time because your value cannot come about instantaneously.

How much value you have depends significantly on who the customer is and what are their means. Can the customer afford to pay what your level of effort would require as fair compensation?

You need to understand how much you have invested in terms of time, money, and other resources in order to determine what you can profitably sell a result for. What are your costs is the very first question you need to answer.

Winning can be for Losers. 

Day 112 Week 16 Q2 Sunday, April 23, 2023

Trilian Didin’t Have a Choice

If you set yourself up intending to win a Noble Prize, an Olympic Medal or some international juried Artists Competition, you are giving away your personal power to others to determine if your life is a success or not. If you are excellent, you may win but never count on it. If you ride a motorcycle, do everything right, and do not make a single mistake, you still have a good chance of being hit by someone else. It does not have to be your fault. If you live in a low-population-density area, your chances of riding for decades without anyone hitting you may be better.

Statistically, the chance of someone achieving the nonlinear success of stardom is not very good. This does not mean you should not pursue success. It means do not expect it to be wildly nonlinear like Elon Musk, Jeff Zuckerberg, or their equivalent in the arts, sciences or politics. These things are like predicting the weather or the stock market. Good luck with either of them.

Let us say you want to be a very successful person with an excellent career, acknowledgment, and wonderful compensation. Say you want to be a one-in—ten-thousand person. That is pretty good. Say you are in the top 1% of what you do.  There is still a big difference between 1 in 100 and 1 in 10 thousand.  You can certainly shoot for the top 1%, but it is so hard to shoot for the top one-hundredth of 1% as to be silly to expect. 

The difference between these two is measured in behavior, not in goal setting. It is reasonable to want to be in the class of the elites, and you can work toward that. It is crazy to demand that you are the most elite of all of the elites. It is possible but not wise to be overly attached to it.

Being in the top 1% is winning. Being one in a million, so extremely unlikely that it would be unhealthy to be too attached to it. The behavior for both is the same if you want to be a balanced, integrated person.  If you hang it all out there for the one in a million, you may be very hard or impossible to live with, and you may say fine to that, but, likely, you will not live as long.

When you are in a college class full of people, each of whom was the smartest person in their high school, you identify has to stop being about being the best. Just be thankful you are even in the room with the other exceptional folks, and remember, the exceptional are often excluded because of how much they are outliers. 

Tone it down, join the rest of the human race, and behave as well as you can instead of trying to be the master of the universe.  When we witness their behavior and decision-making, it is rarely impressive. Being surrounded by sycophants is not the same as liking yourself. 

Bountiful Expedition

Day 111 Week 16 Q2 Saturday, April 22, 2023

Life is a journey for everyone. Even more so for creative outliers, they thankfully tend to stray from the beaten path. After all, tomorrow comes from those who dare to regard life as an expedition that might yield interesting and possibly better results. After all, somebody has to do it. If we relied only upon mutations that come about naturally, it would take much longer to get the next genetic generation.

In life, there are happy accidents and others that are seriously problematic. Creative outliers tend to be less security-minded and more freedom-oriented. As such intrepid travelers also tend to get into trouble more than risk-averse stay in their lane types.  As creative outliers evolve into sustainable innovators, for that is where innovation comes from, their ability to deal positively with setbacks increases. Over time, innovators become somewhat inoculated from negative feedback. The mechanism is quite simple. Once you have manifested what others rejected before even coming into being, you begin to realize that they do not know what you are capable of.  After a few manifesting successes, you begin to expect rejection before completion and do not bother to ask permission up front but instead for forgiveness after the fact.   

A lifetime of creativity and innovation can feel very much like a bountiful expedition as long as you do not define success too narrowly. If you only have a single measure of success, and it is money, most paths will not seem worth it. People do not pursue PhDs or practice the violin eight hours a day to get rich. Well, at least most of them don’t. The odds of winning an Olympic medal or a Noble prize may be much better than winning the lottery, but they are still not very good. Excellence is a marathon, not a sprint, so you had better like what you are doing to get excellent; otherwise, you are spending a large hunk of your life not feeling very good. If you are really annoyed by bug bites, do not go on a safari.  

If you are determined to evolve from a creative outlier to a sustainable innovator, many adjustments to your attitude and psyche can be made to make the trip smoother. And suppose you, like me, are an involuntary innovator. In that case, you do not notice the obstacles as much because you are already moving past them quickly enough for them only to land glancing blows instead of a haymaker that stops you in your tracks. 

Looking through the rearview mirror after the events, it is easier to see how the obstacles were dealt with in the past. The path to a Bountiful Expedition does not have to be accidental or as painful if you know a few things. This is why the Silicon Valley International Innovation Institute was founded. 

One not very small adjustment is for creative outliers to consider themselves to be small businesspersons who are entrepreneurial fiscal entities. Sustainability requires positive cash flow!

Sustainable Innovator Forever

in process birthday song

Some of you have gone through many years of torrential idea dousing. And some of you have also been dousing everyone around you with some fraction of these ideas. It may have made you unpopular or rich, or successful in many ways, or maybe all three at different points in your life. But somehow, you did manage to do something with this gift of more. And survived the travails that came along with it. You did manage to become a sustainable innovator partly because it was involuntary, and after all, what was the alternative?

You could not flip or even find the switch to flip, releasing you from the combination of new ideas and insights, which sometimes caused you to act prematurely, hastily, and with more force than was called for. The innovation impulse is strong, and this is a good thing; otherwise, humanity would never have made it this long. We were not the strongest, fastest, or most agile. Nor are we at the top of the food chain like bears, whales, elephants and hippos. But we out-innovated all of the creatures on the planet to become the pre-eminent problem solvers. Do we make mistakes? Occasionally wipe out thousands or even millions? Bring ourselves to the precipice time and time again? Sure, we do, but our innovative impulses still beat stonily within us, and rightly or wrongly, many of us still, perhaps irrationally still, believe we can figure it out.

This is neither a celebration nor a condemnation. Our involuntary innovation simply is. We are hard-wired for it. Some more than others. And it has kept us alive for millions of years, for better or worse. We may not be as understood as well as we would like, but perhaps this post will help some of us to understand ourselves more. And perhaps some of those individuals who have to, or get to, deal with us may have dipped into these pages to gain a better understanding of who we are and why we do what we do.  These ideas are not new because we are not new. We have been on this path forever, some of us more than others. Some of us are less and more resistant than others. And some of us oscillate between self-acceptance, self-flagellation and self-aggrandizement. We are who we are. Innovation is what we do. And the consequences pile up. Generally, it is not a smooth ride for those who see what others do not, for the exceptional are also excluded. We can not be exactly like everyone else, but we learn to live with it and, at times, exhaust it. We may be more likely to get divorced or remain alone or have many temporary relationships. We may have even managed to turn our innovation toward relationship sustainability, but one thing is certain. Innovation and being an innovator is not an entirely voluntary stance in the world, and this is a good thing because humanity would have died out long ago. 

Be grateful that you survive as an innovator and have to innovate, for then you get to innovate, which transcends all manner of difficulty, obstacle and inconvenience. It is humanity’s superpower, and be grateful that a healthy diet has been bestowed upon you.

Incremental Progress

Day 101 Week 15 Q2 Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Have you ever awoken and noticed you had amassed an unusually large collection of tools in a specific domain? You may have been aware you were attracted to and accumulating the wherewithal to work in a particular field. For some, it can be woodworking tools, others musical instruments, and others collect software apps for taking notes.  You may have been accumulating relationships that all revolved around some common interests. Or books about a topic.

If you have been doing this for a long time, you may have accumulated a stash that exceeds your life expectancy to be able to utilize it. And there is likely a critical mass of capability, relationships, tools and desire to do something with this incremental unconscious accumulation.

It may be time to incrementally deploy this pile to get something done more than accumulation.  Many of us have long lists of projects we want and intend to do for a long time. Is it time for some incremental progress? Is there something you could do for twenty minutes every day to manifest some of these as-yet latent dreams?

Just as the accumulation of wherewithal can be slow, steady and incremental, so can accomplishment. I used to do a lot of ocean kayaking and was amazed to find myself out of sight of land a couple of miles off the coast of Maine just by taking one stroke at a time for thirty or forty minutes. It sort of crept up on me, and it was wondrous that something as simple as taking a series of simple strokes could get you so far. This is a metaphor for all sorts of things in life. For the last hundred and forty-some-odd days, I have deposited a blog posting into an as-yet-unpublished website. I now find myself with the contents of a book.

There are tiny habits that, practiced consistently, can produce monumental results. The great writer Jack London purportedly wrote four pages daily and ended up with over a thousand published materials. Some composers write little music every day. Non-athletes can work out for twenty minutes daily and get in pretty good shape. Musicians can practice for half an hour daily and reach high proficiency levels. 

Perhaps most progress is incremental. Sometimes as creative outliers, we have a bushel of dreams and projects that we throw ourselves into until we burn out on them. As I enter my eighth decade in about a week, I realize that slow and steady wins the race. Well, it took long enough to find this out. Sometimes you have to stop burning rubber to see that you are not getting anywhere even though there is a lot of smoke and noise. It turns out that too much energy can cause you to waste more of it than those who never had all of that energy and ideas in the first place.

Amazingly, slowing down and becoming more incremental may be the most efficient and productive thing a person can do.

Creation Completion

Day 96 Week 14 Q2 Thursday, April 6, 2023

The act of creating is one of the more enjoyable things a person can do, especially if they are creative outliers because they excel at this sort of activity. Unfortunately, continuing to create without ever getting to completion is common. This is because the act of creating feels better than the act of completing, that is what we tell ourselves, but perhaps the act of completing is more rewarding than the act of creating, and it is more difficult, so we avoid it.

The common myth is that a stream-of-consciousness outpouring idea results in effortless perfection. It is the story we creative outliers tell ourselves before we get to face up to the fact that completion is necessary.  Creation completion is necessary for many reasons. In addition to having the internal feeling of closure for having completed something that we have embarked upon, there’s also an external reason which is equally important. You are very rarely compensated for creation but far more likely for creation completion.

This is not about changing your priorities; making money more important than creation. It is an acceptance of the fact that if you want to be sustainable as a creator, you need to get money from somewhere. If it is not as a result of your creative activity, it has to be a result of something other than your creative activity, which is likely less exciting to you than the creative activity.

In short, unless somebody else supports us, or we have inherited enough wealth not to have to think about money, we have to earn a living. And if our very favorite thing to do is to create, is it not obvious that earning a living by creating is preferable to the alternative?

This is where the notion of creation completion comes in. It is a habit to be cultivated. You have to allow enough time to complete your creative projects, and this may be a lot more time than it took to come up with the first draft, original, improvised piece of music, or back-of-the-napkin business plan. All innovators know from experience that many revisions are necessary for satisfactory results.

You need to allow enough time when completing one session and before beginning the next, to capture the state of the project so that it can be, returned to and picked up where you left off. This is time-consuming, not always fun, and often frustrating because it takes much more time than you want it to.

There can also be a fair amount of doubt involved because it is difficult to know when some things are done because you can always imagine improving them. 

Although it is not natural for all creative outliers to obsess over completion as much as to obsess over creation, it is necessary to integrate a strong desire for completion into your workflow, or it may never happen.

Creation completion is just as important as starting, and in terms of compensation, it is far more important. It is also necessary if you want to move on to the next project with your mind free to explore and not feel that you have to go back and do this other project before you start the new one.

Creation Completion also determines the difference between an amateur and a professional. Make it a habit so that it comes to you automatically without effort, and you will be much happier and richer.

Axes and Chainsaws

Day 95 Week 14 Q2 Wednesday, April 5, 2023 

The term “ax” is a slang term that guitar players have used to refer to their guitar for many years because it is seen as a tool for creating music, much like an ax is a tool for chopping wood. I also think guitars have cut through music like an axe or a chainsaw.

I play some guitar every day as a way to relax and get centered. Sometimes this acts like a delimiter when I break complex projects into smaller tasks. 

This spring, there have been large winter storms where snow and large ice-laden tree limbs came crashing down, depriving many of power and, in general, creating a large mess requiring chainsaws to address.

As I was wielding my chainsaw after playing my axe, I realized they had a lot in common. They both were terrific at slicing large problems into smaller, more manageable ones.

Sometimes working on a complex creative project is like having an impassible driveway littered with tree limbs too large to drive over For those of you in warmer climates, or who are city dwellers, this is not something you ever have to think about. It happens a lot for those of us in northern rural areas, which is why I have three different chain saws. A gas-powered big one, a battery-powered little one, and an in-between electric one which requires a very long extension cord to be useful.

Similarly, most guitarists I know have more than one ax. The acoustic one for the living room couch, the electric one to play out in clubs and the old valuable one you got a long time ago, which you dare not take out of the house, especially to a bar.

All of these guitars and chainsaws do the same job. They break up the unmanageable into the manageable. And as such, they are a metaphor for life. We all need delimiters; sometimes, they are physical and metaphysical simultaneously.

What are your delimiters? A cup of tea? A walk in the woods or to the local cafe? Life has its storms, and they can produce a lot of fallout which gets in the way of our creative process.  Is your axe the word processor app or paint brush or camera? 

Sometimes it is time to start a new company, department, or initiative, and these can act as delimiters until they get complex enough that they, too, need to be broken into smaller pieces. For one, I constantly need to process complexity by breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces I can lift. 

I can not lift a tree, except for a very small one, but I can and do move trees all of the time by cutting them into smaller pieces. The same applies to composing a piece for an orchestra, writing a book, or anything too large to deal with in one gulp. And almost everything worth doing can not be dealt with in one gulp.

Find the axes, chainsaws and whatever delimiters you need to segment complexity into manageability.