From the category archives:

Entrepreneurship

This ad is almost universally referred to as “The Crazy Ones” – but I prefer to focus on the actions of creative people rather than the pejoratives applied to them.

I almost titled it: No Respect for the Status Quo.

Thank you, Steve.

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A reminder of what we will lose if we abandon exploration — despite all its costs:

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Even though he’s already met his goal, I think this is such a great project that I just supported it:

And you still have time to support it, too.

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Amy Hillman recently tweeted this photo of the dedication in a book from Bob’s Red Mill:

...a simple, sustaining way of life...

...a simple, sustaining way of life...

Not too surprising that someone who cares about his wife, work and values this much gave the company to his employees on his 81st birthday.

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From Best Thought, Worst Thought by Don Paterson:

“What kills the writer, in the end, is the absence of a direct causal relationship between effort and reward. Thus it is rarely true *work*, in any way our bodies can understand. A free day, all the kids off to their grandmother’s, the house deathly quiet; half an hour’s meditation; a cafetière of Costa Rica in the study; no sound but the rain dripping from the trees in the back garden through the open window….And I cannot introduce two words to one another without them falling out immediately. Today, feeling exhausted, ill, overweight, the house full of yelling, my mind a roiling broth of fear and resentment and professional jealousy — a dozen problems I have pored over for weeks have been solved in twenty minutes flat. I end the day feeling worse than ever, as if I had accomplished nothing at all.”

From the Songs for Drella collaboration between John Cale and Lou Reed, which reflected on their time with Andy Warhol:

“No matter what I did, it never seemed enough,
He said I was lazy, I said I was young.
He said “How many songs did you write?”
I’d written zero, I lied, and said “Ten.”

“You won’t be young forever –
You should have written fifteen!
It’s work!”

….

Andy said a lot of things,
I stored ‘em all away in my head.
Sometimes, when I can’t decide what I should do
I think: “What would Andy have said?”

He’d probably say: “You think too much!
That’s cause there’s work — that you don’t want to do!
It’s work. The most important thing is work.
It’s work. The most important thing is work.”

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In an excerpt from from his recent project “A Week at The Airport“, Alain de Botton interviews the head of British Airways, and considers the true yield of ‘profitless’ industries:

Considered collectively, as a cohesive industry, civil aviation had never in its history shown a profit. Just as significantly, neither had book publishing. In this sense, then, the CEO and I, despite our apparent differences, were in much the same sort of business, each one needing to justifying itself in the eyes of humanity not so much by its bottom line as by its ability to stir people’s souls. It seemed no less absurd to evaluate an airline according to its profit-and-loss statement than to judge a great poet by his or her royalty statements. The stock market could never put a price on the thousands of moments of beauty and interest that occurred around the world every day under the airline’s banner: it could not describe the sight of Nova Scotia from the air, it had no room in its optics for the camaraderie enjoyed by employees in the Hong Kong ticket office, it had no means of quantifying the ecstasy of takeoff. In order to understand such things properly, society would have to learn to look at airlines as one might consider a work of art.”

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Amanda Palmer said:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.
please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money.
dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

i am shameless, and fearless, when it comes to money and art.

i can’t help it: i come from a street performance background.
i stood almost motionless on a box in harvard square, painted white, relinquishing my fate and income to the goodwill and honor of the passers-by.

i spent years gradually building up a tolerance to the inbuilt shame that society puts on laying your hat/tipjar on the ground and asking the public to support your art.

i was harassed, jeered at, mocked, ignored, insulted, spit at, hated.
i was also applauded, appreciated, protected, loved….all by strangers passing me in the street.
people threw shit at me.
people also came up to me and told me that i’d changed their lives, brightened their day, made them cry.

some people used to yell “GET A FUCKING JOB” from their cars when they drove by me.
i, of course, could not yell back. i was a fucking statue, statues do not yell.

if you think i’m going to pass up a chance to put my hat back down in front of the collected audience on my virtual sidewalk and ask them to give their hard-earned money directly to me instead of to roadrunner records, warner music group, ticketmaster, and everyone else out there who’s been shamelessly raping both fan and artist for years, you’re crazy

via Walt Pascoe et al

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Charles Blow’s column yesterday featured this extraordinarily effective visualization of the diminution of the music business, as it has shifted from medium to medium:

Getting smaller over time...

Dwindling...

And in the text of the article, this:

A study last year conducted by members of PRS for Music, a nonprofit royalty collection agency, found that of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs.

When Chris Anderson introduced the idea of the Long Tail, his enthusiasm was focused on all the new ways once obscure idea-makers might find audiences, however small. Looking at the above statistics, what’s remarkable is how much of what we consider mainstream culture is actually in the tail — and the tail isn’t making much money.

Of course, such a study doesn’t measure all music sales, and it certainly doesn’t capture the experience of discovering music, sharing our discoveries, live performances, making music, or any of the other ways that music impacts our lives.

And it reminds me of a Claude Debussy quote I recently read, via Ray Kurzweil:

“At a time like ours, in which mechanical skill has attained unsuspected perfection, the most famous works may be heard as easily as one may drink a glass of beer, and it only costs ten centimes, like the automatical weighing machines. Should we not fear this domestication of sound, this magic that anyone can bring from a disk at will? Will it not bring to waste the mysterious force of an art which one might have thought indestructible?”

Given the resiliency of thought and self-expression — musical and otherwise — I’ll venture a “No” vote to that question.

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“I’ve thought
about this
quite a bit,
sir,

and I would have
to say
considering
what’s waiting
out there
for me

I don’t want
to sell anything
buy anything
or process
anything –
as a
career.

I don’t want
to sell anything
bought
or processed.

Buy anything
sold
or processed

or
process anything
sold
bought –
or processed,

or repair anything
sold
bought
or processed.

You know,
as a career:
I don’t want
to do that.”

– Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) in Say Anything, outlining the aversions that led him to choose a career in kickboxing.

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From the Imagine That! blog at Psychology Today:

“Neophyte means beginner. Neophyte is the opposite of expert. The serial neophyte is one who relishes the prospect of feeling a kid again, embracing the uncertainty of ignorance and discovering new things constantly. The serial neophyte, first cousin to the polymath, purposefully moves from one discipline and one venture to another, transferring thinking skills and problem-solving strategies as he or she goes.”

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I’ve been following Tom Steinberg’s great work at establishing better communications channels and feedback loops between citizens and the UK government for a while now.  You can find out more about these projects at the mySociety website.

In his latest newsletter, he featured a project that applies the HotOrNot meme (which is often judgmental, demeaning, humiliating and masochistic when rating people) to places in the UK:

“ScenicOrNot helps you to explore every corner of England, Scotland and Wales, all the while comparing your aesthetic judgements with fellow players.”

The site presents a photo, and prompts viewers to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, from not scenic to scenic.

One-dimensional assessments of anything are always dicey, but I can see many merits in this particular project:

  • It’s interesting to learn how others perceive a place. Is there anything close to general agreement about what it means to be scenic?  I rated a field of ripening barely a 7, 2.5 points above the average.
  • Many of the photos used are not of touristy locations, so it may be the first time that a particular cattle-gate has been rated or thought about in these terms.
  • Aggregating such opinions could have all sorts of uses, from finding attractive places you didn’t know about, to directing beautification efforts at blighted areas.

According to the same newsletter, mySociety is working on:

“A Really Great Secret Project that uses that scenicness data we’ve been gathering and which we think you’re going to Quite Like”

I can’t wait to see it.

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At least every month or two, it’s worth taking a step back to think about something like this:

International Space Station, March, 2009

International Space Station, March, 2009

Humans made this.

People have lived there continuously for more than eight years.

You are a member of a species that figured out how to build a shelter that hovers 350 kilometers (190 nautical miles) above its planet of origin.

Now, what was it that you said you couldn’t do?

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Mocking Myself for Planting Trees

At seventy I still plant trees,
but don’t take me for an idiot.
Though death has always been inevitable,
I don’t know the date!

– Qing dynasty poet Yuan Mei (1716-1798)

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#1

Harlan Ellison: “I sell my soul — but at the highest rates.”

#2

From the start of a discussion over at Zoë Westhof’s Essential Prose on getting paid for doing what you love:

I believe that the question of whether or not to combine one’s passion with one’s income is truly personal. Though it often seems like it would be insane to turn down the chance to turn your passion into a successful career, I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been there and been disillusioned.

And:

It can be liberating and glorious to find a way to make money doing what you love, but it also brings in a lot of baggage. Baggage like obligations and ROI and finances. It can also mean compromising your pure passion to make it more marketable. In reality, many people who try to combine passion and career end up shooting too broadly — the freelance writer who loves writing, but then realizes it’s actually just writing poetry that he loves. Not writing ad copy, or white papers. But he’s making a living writing, so isn’t he doing what he loves?

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From a This I Believe essay by Matt Harding:

My brain was designed to inhabit a fairly small social network of maybe a few dozen other primates — a tribe. Beyond that size, I start to get overwhelmed.

And yet here I am in a world of over 6 billion people, all of whom are now inextricably linked together. I don’t need to travel to influence lives on the other side of the globe. All I have to do is buy a cup of coffee or a tank of gas. My tribe has grown into a single, impossibly vast social network, whether I like it or not. The problem, I believe, isn’t that the world has changed, it’s that my primitive caveman brain hasn’t.

I am fantastic at seeing differences. Everybody is. I can quickly pick out those who look or behave differently, and unless I actively override the tendency, I will perceive them as a threat. That instinct may have once been useful for my tribe but when I travel, it’s a liability.

When I dance with people, I see them smile and laugh and act ridiculous. It makes those differences seem smaller. The world seems simpler, and my caveman brain finds that comforting.

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