The Commitment To Uncertainty

by seansblog-admin on February 22, 2018

We have all learned to live in chaos.  We are bombarded, literally, by a deluge of information — personal, political, business, entertainment, etc. — every minute of every day.  To stop the deluge, we have to consciously stop looking when we are being programmed to do anything but look away.

The issue has become so prevalent that people are focusing on how we can get back to the idea of deep thought and deep work in the midst of the chaos.  Deep Work is a great book on the subject.  It is a testament to the times that we have to be taught how to focus our attention to get great ideas born.

And yet.

In the midst of the search for the solution, the answer to your issue confronting you, your art or your creative business, there is less time devoted to being lost, to sitting with the discomfort (pain? torture? humiliation?) that you just do not know.  We have all been there.  The feeling of not knowing which end is up, the right way to go, the solution to the problem, or really the actual problem you are facing.

With answers at our fingertips to almost anything, uncertainty has become a badge of shame, to be avoided at all costs.  So much so that we pay and devote ourselves to the benefits of meditation to clear our minds only to race to our phones when we are finished.

Instead, how about we go the other way?  How about we go deeper into the uncertainty?  Break through the walls of what we believe to be possible? Of what could come to exist? And most importantly what we can manifest?  The power of improv is that it ironically applies structure to the moment to give the performers ultimate freedom within the structure.  What a beautiful thought for creative business.

The responsibility upon all of us then is to share what we know of course.  Give freely the knowledge you might have gleaned from your work, your study, your life and business experiences combined.  We all stand on the shoulders of giants big and small.  However, let us all go further.  Let’s push deeper into the abyss.  Actively encourage the discomfort of not knowing, of what is completely foreign to you, your colleagues, your world.  Let the uncertainty marinate for a little while longer.

Here is what I have come to know:

If you let the uncertainty linger, to accept the angst that comes with feeling lost, inevitably “Why Not?” bubbles to the surface.  In the “Why Not?”, for me at least, is a whole new way of being, behaving, thinking about creative business and what it “should” look like.  So much so that the very notion of “should” becomes absurd.  Instead, we all get closer to “can”.

Go ahead then and teach all that you know to whoever will listen.  Whether you get paid for the effort is beside the point.  But please let’s as a group go deeper.  Encourage not confusion, but disbelief.  Actively promote thinking as to what is profoundly personal — I do not know why I feel this way, but I do, with the specific bent that we are talking about creative businesses and how they run.  Not my place to comment on other areas of anyone’s life beyond their creative business nor is it yours unless you are specifically trained to do so.

There is always a better way, better than what I might offer, what you might offer.  Who cares?  There is no end to better, only the work to get to the very place you will never reach.  When the delusion of better resides at your fingertips, we give up the search and the meaning of the search itself.  My question then is how can you go beyond what you know and push those around you to linger a little while longer in uncertainty?  To be committed to formulating new solutions, or, even more, new problems that require innovation and risk heretofore either unheard of or considered.  This is how we change lives, transform creative businesses, make a difference.  No better day than yesterday to get to it.


Noise Noise Noise

by seanlow on February 15, 2018

Fear is a powerful dream killer, bottleneck, myopia-inducing wall creator.  Fear helps us define the possible and live with the notion that “not for us” is good enough good.  I watch it happen over and over and over again.  Artists living with a feeling that what they want is just out of their grasp.  So they charge less than they should, work too much on projects that do not speak to them.  And when told there is another way, the answer invariably is a mix of incredulous, fanciful possibility, until the resignation of “not for me” takes over, sometimes with the indignation of you cannot possibly know what you are talking about when it comes to me and my creative business.

Then there are the well meaning “experts” who say charge what you are worth, be confident in yourself and your art, buck up bucko.  As if a pep talk is anything more than a sugar rush.  The “expert” feels great since they rallied the troops and “inspired” their audience/clients to go for it.

I, on the other hand, am heartbroken.  If you flip the keys to a Ferrari to a kid who just got her license, it is a thrill to hear the engine roar and the power of speed at your fingertips, that is right up until she realizes that it is far beyond her ability to really enjoy and appreciate.  The “expert” who only throws the keys to the Ferrari is hoping that those who love to drive will figure it out.  Of course, some will.  Most, however, will just be terrified and bide their time until they can get into any regular car that is not a Ferrari, capable of getting them where they want to go, reliably and safely without much fanfare.

Would it not be better for those who actually know how to drive a Ferrari to show and teach those who care enough how to actually drive the car?  To talk about the effort it is going to take to master what the machine can do?  The willingness to understand that driving a Ferrari is at once dangerous and expected.  Dangerous because the machine demands the operator to be on the edge, expected because that is what it was built for in the first place.

I know many will say that there are great creative businesses out there that are regular cars doing reliable, safe work that clients value.  To which I say, let us not mix metaphors.  All creative businesses are Ferraris.  They are meant to be dangerous and expected because what is to come does not yet exist, yet will come to life as you, the artist and creative business, intend.  If you live in the reliable and safe, certainly you are valuable, but you are not indispensable and that makes what you are doing NOT a creative business, but a business possibly in support of either a creative business or creative endeavor.  Those who sell art supplies to the artist are possibly creative,wonderful support but noone would confuse the shopkeeper with Picasso.  Ever.

I say this not to throw shade on those who consider themselves creative but celebrate safety and reliability, only to acknowledge the paradox and the contradiction.  And this paradox and contradiction is what bites so many creative businesses in the butt.  Instead of learning to drive the Ferrari by actively seeking out teachers, cohorts, communities that live to drive Ferraris, they come to see the simple, the practical, the digestible as the way.  Then these artists are horrified when technology comes along and replaces them; when “newbies” flood the market and kill any chance of making a decent living (so they have to have a “side hustle” to make ends meet); when clients do not understand all they bring to the table.  These artists want to believe those “experts” that tell them they are special snowflakes and then redo everything to tell a better “brand” story, focusing on their core values, blah blah blah blah buhblah.  All the while they bathe in the safe and reliable because they have no clue, no real strategy as to how, exactly, to define what they are worth.  When the sugar rush of the “new you” wears off, the reality of their non-existent, eroding foundation returns, as will the frustration, anger and resentment.  How I wish it were not so, but you do not need to look far in the creative business landscape to see how prevalent the sentiment actually is for so many creative business owners.

Life is a choice.  If you are in the business of safe and reliable, fabulous wheel greaser, live there.  Own the idea that you will be facing competition from everywhere — new entrants, technology, etc. – and you will just have to be better at being better. Volume, mass, the power of dilution.  You might command a premium to the market but please do not expect the rewards of driving a Ferrari, even if you talk like you do, since you do not, in fact, drive a Ferrari.  Appreciate the value of tried and true and make promises that fulfill that reality and none other.

Now, to those who wish to believe themselves to be driving Ferraris, do the damn work.  Awake to the changing world around you and know that your creative business has to be a reflection of the reality that you get paid, really paid, for what NO ONE (and I mean NO ONE) needs.  If what is coming out of your proverbial mouth does not match the story your creative business is telling, change the story.  Your clients have to want what you do — why, when and how – so much so that it becomes a need.  Make ever-growing radical promises and then keep them.  When you do keep your promises, get paid for them – every time. Rinse and repeat until you create and then manifest great art, all so you have the right and ability to do it again (and again).

Everybody is afraid, the question is what are you going to do with it.  At a certain point, you have to acknowledge to yourself whether you want to drive the Ferrari or whether that is just too much.

As I told my twelve year old daughter the other day, talent and a quarter gets you a gumball, everything else is a function of showing up and doing the hard work of getting better.  The age of platitudes, randomness, doing it because that is the way it has always been done (or, the other lovely, because that is what happens in my market) is dead.  Thank goodness.  Design can only be marginalized if the artist lets it be, willingly giving up its value for the sake of a sale. Nature abhors a vacuum and, the biggest risk to all creative businesses is if artists abdicate the value of design to the consumer and/or to technology.

How about we all agree that this is self-inflicted pain we should all collectively say a big fat NO to?  Good.  So today, not tomorrow, or next month, or next season – today – what are you going to demand (not ask, not inquire, not wish for – demand) of your clients to do better work for them.  The one thing that will change your world and theirs.  The one thing the client has to do to honor the one thing that matters to you, your art and your creative business.  Do that.


Controlling Time

February 8, 2018

One of the questions I often get asked is, “If I were your client, what is the first thing you would have me work on/change?”  Easy.  You have to control time better and the only way to do that is to have a business model that respects time in the way you want to control […]

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Contemplating New Opportunities

February 1, 2018

I thought we would pivot this week.  I have spent a lot of time these last few months focusing on the distillation of your art and your creative business.  The work has been about developing everything you do around what you most care about and getting paid for it specifically.  Of course, we will return […]

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What Does Being A Gatekeeper Look Like Today?

January 25, 2018

Time was when if you wanted to know who to hire there were those who controlled everything and were the trusted resource for everyone associated with the project. Venue to wedding planner to wedding vendors.  Architect or contractor to designer to trades (or shelter magazine to designer to trades). The whole point was a trusted […]

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What Does Meaningful Conversation Look Like?

January 18, 2018

So let us get the elephant out of the room.  No potential client is at your door to be your friend.  They are there because they want you and your creative business to transform their lives. Full stop. That said, to do the work you are tasked with doing, you actually have to appreciate who […]

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Hyper-Local Does Not Mean Local Yokel

January 11, 2018

I hear it all the time: “Well, I am not a national name like [insert sacred totem] so I could not possibly charge what they do.” However, these are the artists that routinely take on and are sought after for projects that are at the top of their luxury market — interior design with square […]

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Two Commitments For 2018

January 4, 2018

Happy happy to everyone.  2018 is going to be a remarkable year. More than ever, there is an ability to see the reality of what was only a fantasy a few years ago.  Things like commercial space travel, 3D/Virtual Reality everything, renewable powered cars and homes, and on and on.  Go watch any 80’s movie […]

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Legacy and Evolution

December 21, 2017

So what if I came to you, one of  my existing clients, with this business proposition:  I want you to pay twenty-five percent more for a new version of my product, my tenth version. As with all of the previous versions, the new version improves things a lot but does not revolutionize anything. More cool, […]

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Why Podcasting Matters To Creative Business

December 7, 2017

People like us do things like this.  Seth Godin focuses all of his marketing efforts here and it is the basis of permission marketing.  Permission marketing requires empathy as to who the person is and what it is that they seek from you, the artist.  Of course, you do not have to be your client, […]

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