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All posts tagged draw your own map

 “Myrmidons! My brothers of the sword! I would rather fight beside you than any army of thousands! Let no man forget how menacing we are, we are lions! Do you know what’s waiting beyond that beach? Immortality! Take it! It’s yours!” [Troy]

Creators have a dilemma.

We want the freedom to create whatever, whenever we want…

But the market will only compensate us for what IT wants.

This leaves your average creator (whether entrepreneur, writer, artist, etc.) in a particularly uncomfortable position, with only two real options.

Option 1: Create what you want, ignore the market…

Many creators do just that.  They build for themselves and completely ignore the rest of the world.

There’s only one problem with this: it rarely pays off.

Yes, there are outliers.  But that’s exactly the point: they’re outliers.

If the market doesn’t like what you create, you bear the burden.

‘Do what you love’ sounds fun and sexy, until you realize you’ve been living on your mom’s couch for 3 years.

Option 2: Create for the market, ignore what you want…

Many other creators (probably the vast majority) choose this route.

They ignore their curiosities, inspirations, and passions, and build widgets instead.

There’s only one problem with this: it comes at a cost.

How long can we supply the demand for something we don’t care about?  How long can we commit to creating something personally valueless?  How long until the money’s not worth being a robot in the robot factory?

A False Dichotomy

Of course, this is a false dichotomy.

It doesn’t take a human geographer to realize there are other options besides ‘starving artist’ and ‘miserable cog’ when it comes to the life we choose for ourselves.

Just look at how many starving cogs and miserable artists there are in the world…

I kid (sort of…).

So why do we do it?

Simple:

We create this dichotomy, first and foremost, because it’s easier to process the world this way.  The brain can only process so many things at one time, so simplifying things makes the brain happy (we avoid sensory overload).

Second – and much more insidiously – we create this dichotomy to create an out

The Enemy wants to keep us stagnate.  An ‘either / or’ dichotomy with seemingly brutal consequences is the perfect weapon to make this happen.

If the world is a zero sum game, if it’s either win or lose, if it’s either me or him…well, better reason to just stay put, keep our heads down, and blend into the rest of the tribe

Now that we have a good, rational reason to sit still, we are off the hook for not taking action.  We have our out.

The Real Creator’s Dilemma

But of course this out isn’t really an out.

It’s submitting for comfort and safety (or so we think…).

The real dilemma isn’t: do I do what I love, or do I do what makes me money?

This dichotomy doesn’t exist – it never did.

The real dilemma is: do we acquiesce to a life and lifestyle undesired because it’s comfortable and safe?

Or…

Or do we take the uncomfortable, uncertain, and difficult path…the one we know won’t be easy, clear, or guranteed…the one fraught with hardship, setbacks and failure…

Because we know it will be worth it?

Take it. It’s yours.

You can do important work and make money from it.

It’s possible, I promise you this.

I meet new people doing it every day.

More importantly, they’re doing it their way:  they’re picking the route, choosing their packing list, and drawing the map as they go along.  No, it’s not easy – but it was never supposed to be.

The same reality can be yours.

It’s waiting for you, just beyond that beach…

The question is: will you take it?

Start, finished, and shipped in Cape Town, S. Africa (after hanging out with penguins!)

Total writing time: 5:30 hrs

p.s. interested in taking the beach, but rather do it with an army?  I’m putting together an elite group of people for a new project…one I’m not sure will work.  If you’re interested in finding out more about it, join The Resistance: COMMAND Group today.

Note: this is an exclusive group, different than The Resistance Broadcast.  Only passionate entrepreneurs and artists commited to collaboration and excellence need apply.

“Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success…”  – Jiro Ono (Jiro Dreams of Sushi)

*   *   *

a map of the gilisFor the past two months, my wife and I have been traveling around South East Asia.

We’ve spent the majority of our time in Indonesia, with a one-off stop in Singapore for a long weekend (flights were $9 and we needed to renew our Indonesian visas, so it was a no-brainer).

Toward the end of our time in Indonesia, we made a trip to the Gili Islands, just off the coast of Lombok.

There are three Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short), Gili Mano and Gili Air.

Each island has its own unique atmosphere (Gili T is more party, Gili Mano is basically undeveloped, and Gili Air is that quiet middle ground, more suited for honeymooners or people who prefer less crowded locations but all the essential amenities one might need while visiting an island paradise – like Wi-Fi).

We decided to spend the majority of our time on Gili Air.

Artisanship on an Island Paradise

I knew this place was different the moment our wooden boat floated up to its sand and coral beaches.

Unlike most Indonesian cities (and most SE Asian cities for that matter), instead of being greeted by hundreds of taxi cab drivers looking to take all our money (we stand out here), we saw a dozen horse drawn carriages lining the street with not a single moped in sight (again, for SE Asia, this is bizarre).

Courtney and I had done our research, though – Gili Air is only a few square kilometers, meaning everything is in walking distance.

So we started walking.

We had no set plans or booked reservations – we normally wing our travel and this was no exception.

As we walked along the half-cobble, half-sand roads, we were greeted with the standard set of Indonesian idiosyncrasies (smiles, laughter, offers for a place to stay or eat, and lots of ‘mista’ and ‘boss’ thrown into their sentences for good measure), and passed by dozens of independently owned and operated shops.

One shop in particular caught my attention.

gili air artisan

- How do you NOT stop here? -

A little hut, just off the side of the main road (there’s really only one main road in Gili Air), with a sign that read:

Gili Air Artshop Made to Order. Looking is for Free, Smile Included.

But it wasn’t the warm, inviting sign that drew me in; it was the man sitting outside the shop, hacking away at a coconut that did.

His name is Nin.

Nin is an artist.  He carves, paints, and constructs things from wood and other natural materials.  Today, he is carving a necklace out of a coconut.

Watch him work for just a few minutes and you realize a few things:

1. Nin is a professional.  This is his life.  It’s what he does every day for hours a day.  His craftsmanship shows.

2. Nin is an artisan.  He works with his hands to bring his vision to life.  And he’s skilled at it.

3. Nin’s workshop is sustainable in the perfect sense of the word.  He uses discarded wood and coconuts to make his art.  This isn’t for marketing purposes – it’s out of necessity.

Naturally, I had to buy something from Nin.

gili air artisan

- Nin hard at work -

He charged me 200,000 Rupiah for a coconut necklace.

As a point of reference, that’s less than $20 US.  As another point of reference, that’s more than it cost for one night on our beach front bungalow, and about 2 times as much as dinner for two at a high end restaurant on the island.

Depending on how you view it, it might seem like I got ripped off.  Relative to prices on the island, 200,000 Rupiah is quite a bit of money.  And I never bartered (something you’re supposed to do in Indonesia).

Of course, after watching him work, I didn’t want to.

He spent three days carving this necklace from a coconut shell.  Every day, I watched his progress, forming something from (essentially) nothing.

When it was finished, I wondered if 200,000 Rupiah was too little.

The Artisan in the Digital Age

I tell this story for a reason.

First, to point out that artisanship still exists.  All over the world.  And many people just like me are willing to pay a premium for it.

And second, to beg the question:

  • What does it take in the digital age – in the age of pixels, gigabytes, and high resolution – to create something artisan?
  • Is it even possible?
  • Is it worth bleeding over our work when there’s nothing to physically hold at the end of the day?

The Message and the Message Spreader

In the beginning of this essay, I quoted Jiro Ono, a sushi chef made famous from a little documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro’s an artisan.

He lives and breathes the perfect sushi dish.  He’s been doing it every day for over 70 years and will continue until he physically can’t.

Jiro charges over $300 a meal.

He does because he can – because people want to see a master artist at work.

We’re naturally drawn toward those who perfect their craft, who’ve weathered the inner creative battle for decades and come out on top.  And we’re happy to pay a premium just to be in their presence (Jiro’s sushi shop is booked months in advance).

Again, this might solidify the idea that artisanship only exists in the physical realm…

Until I think about how I heard of Jiro.

I’ve never met Jiro in person, nor been to his sushi restaurant.

It was a documentary – a digital download – that brought his work to my attention.  It was this medley of pixels, gigabytes and high resolution that shined a light on his work and his philosophy.

The digital world made this message possible to spread.

And no other medium could have delivered the message with more impact.

We’re Waiting to Pay You a Premium

As entrepreneurs, creators and instigators in the 21st century, a very big part of what we do is online.

Yet instead of killing off what is left of artisanship, I honestly believe it’s helping to grow and expand the roll of the artisan (just listen to some of the interviews I’ve done with true digital artisans like AJ Leon and Dan Adams, among others) .

The artisan storyteller; the artisan craftsman (online and off); the artisan message spreader…

The roll of the artisan is expanding.

The question isn’t one of accessibility or ‘how’ – anyone can be one if they choose.

The question is: are you willing to put in the hours, days, and years (and the sweat, blood, and tears) to create the perfect product or service for the people who matter – the ones who want to hear from you?

My advice?

Start today – before you’re ready.

Because we’re waiting.

And we’re willing to pay a premium.

Started in Gili Air; thrashed in Sydney; finished and shipped in Perth, Australia (while listening to the song Perth by Bon Iver)

Total Writing Time: 3 hours and 8 minutes

Want to support Artisanship in the 21st century?  Subscribe to The Creative Entrepreneur and support an artisanal publication while helping fund entrepreneurs in developing countries.

 

life is for the unreasonable

For the past two months

my wife and I have been vagabonding through New Zealand.

Vagabonding is probably the best word for it – the majority of the time we’ve been living out of our backpack and a tiny red hatchback (The Getzya!).

The first weekend here, we rented a car (buses are too expensive here and a car would give us more flexibility).  Since then, we’ve managed to see more of New Zealand than most New Zealanders (we’re very curious and we don’t waste time).

We started in Auckland in the north (of the north island) and made it all the way to Queenstown in the south (of the south island), stopping along the way to see rocky, windswept coastlines, majestic waterfalls (lots of waterfalls), surreal-looking giant trees, and a never-ending supply of sheep grazing on rolling, green hills.

In a very nerdy way, it reminded me of the Nintendo game Zelda come to life (although there were no boss battles or treasure chests in the caves here).

Our time here has come to an end, but it’s been an incredible ride with just enough misadventures to keep it interesting the whole time.

But the point of this essay isn’t to gush about New Zealand (although, if you have a chance, definitely go visit), nor is it to brag (can you really brag if you’ve been living out of a car?).

The point of this essay is to tell you a story of a couple people whose work has impacted millions (including many reading this, I’d suspect), yet few of us even directly recognize their contribution…

***

Our last stop…

in the north island of New Zealand took us to the windy city of Wellington (they call Chicago the windy city in the States – it doesn’t come close to Wellington, where some days the wind could actually knock you over).

While there, we did what we always do in a new city: go for explorative runs, conduct hands-on research of the craft-beer scene and wander wherever we feel compelled to go.

One of those daily wanders led us Weta Digital.

Weta is the company responsible for the visual effects for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  From makeup, to costumes, to set design, to digital FX – Weta created it all.

Based on the record-setting box-office numbers and gluttony of awards they won, they obviously killed it.  They brought Tolken’s Middle Earth to life, convincing the die-hards that a well-produced film could do the books justice, and convincing the masses that some fantasy stories are worth hearing (even if it means sitting down for over 3 hours to do so).

But what’s even more remarkable is that they did all this under seemingly impossible circumstances:  Weta hadn’t officially been around for 10 years before Peter Jackson picked them for the project, and they didn’t do just one film, they had to do all 3 at once.

There’s no good reason they should have succeeded, but they did.

***

Of course, if this is where the story ends, where you close the browser and say got it, you miss the point entirely.

Weta’s story didn’t start with multiple studies, hundreds of employees and this extremely complex, multi-faceted, million-dollar blockbuster project.

It started as an unreasonable idea in the back room of Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger’s cramped flat in 1987.

It started as the kind idea your peers would tell you to forget about (for your own good, of course), so you can spend more time making time-and-a-half and watching football.

It started as the type of idea that usually goes nowhere, so why waste your time?

It started as an idea that’s for kids and dreamers, not adults.

Lucky for us, Richard and Tonia didn’t care.  Instead, they kept doing the odd thing, the childish thing, the unreasonable thing…

With each small project, they pushed the boundaries of their own creativity.  They put their blood, sweat and tears into every creation, beyond any reasonable expectation of repayment.  And with each new film, they improved, honed and sharpened their skill-set.

They also formed relationships that lasted.

They got their first major film gig in 1989.  Their job: to create bizarre-looking muppets for an even more bizarre black comedy.  The guy directing was a local to Wellington as well: Peter Jackson.

4 years later, they joined with Peter to expand their film effects company (RT Effects at the time) and formed what is now Weta Digital.

7 years after that, they got their big break: the opportunity to work on The Lord of the Rings.

Since then, they’ve worked on dozens of blockbusters, from Iron Man 3, to District 9 to the new Hobbit movies, and expanded into a total of 5 studios running the gamut of film production (from pre through post production).

***

There are at least a dozen good lessons to take from this story, but I’ll leave you with just one:

Life is for the unreasonable.

This goes for everyone and everything.

Your existence on this planet, in and of itself, is unreasonable.  The chances of you being here, right now, just as you are – they’re so slim as to be non-existent.  There is no random chance here.

Yet so many squander this gift by waiting, letting others go first, and favoring the safe and secure bet.

Richard and Tonia didn’t wait.  They didn’t let someone else create the studio they dreamt up.  And they certainly didn’t favor safety or security.

They were completely unreasonable.

And those who love their work and feel their impact are better off for it.

***

Of course, you’ve probably never heard of Richard and Tonia, unless you’re a huge LOTR fan.  Most of us enjoyed the movies and might recognize a few of the actors and maybe the director – that’s about it.

So what’s in it for them if the masses of people don’t even recognize their contribution?  

And what’s in it for the rest of us if no one notices what we do?

I’m not sure what Richard or Tonia would say about this (I’ve yet to interview them for In the Trenches), but I know what one of Tolkien’s characters would say:

there may come a time for valor without renown. [Aragorn]

Don’t wait.

Be unreasonable.

___

Started, finished and shipped at The Sprocket Roaster in Newcastle, Australia. Fuel: double espresso. Soundtrack: Bon Iver

Total writing time: 5 hours

___

p.s. want an unreasonable way to sell your products or services?  Check out my book: The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing. It might just change the way you approach your business, art and writing forever.