This post is for anyone who is trying to do artistic work (writing, painting, computer programming, sculpting, music composition and recording, whatever) – or trying to make money (entrepreneur, salaried, investor, whatever).
People that desire to create and enterprise do a lot to build the world, but it’s often a lonely and frustrating path.
And due to the nature of that, most creative and enterprising people make a key mistake.
They keep trying to re-invent the wheel.
Please stop doing that.
When you get into a new field, you start by getting a hang of the basics. You dabble, experiment, maybe read or research a little on the topic.
This is all good.
But then, a lot of artistic/enterprising people make a serious mistake – they get all their lessons on how to improve the hard way, by reinventing the wheel and struggling in ways that have already been struggled before.
You can cut a lot of frustration and learning curve time off if you do things more systematically.
Step 1 – Start dabbling and playing in the endeavor, seeing if you like it.
Step 2 – Pick up the basics, start putting a stable amount of time into your endeavor.
Step 3 – Now, before pouring energy in haphazardly, start also learning how the most successful people in the field did it.
Read summaries and biographies of people that have come before you.
It’s amazing how many people don’t do this, because it means you’re going to make serious mistakes and do inopportune things that could have been avoided.
For instance, if you’re a businessman thinking taking investment, you’d do really well to read Ted Turner’s biography, Call Me Ted. He references one of his biggest mistakes as giving veto power to two investors on his board of directors, who abused that power and blocked him from doing good deals sometimes.
By reading Call Me Ted, you learn about how Ted had free reign to produce at Turner Industries until he gave over that veto clause, and you make a mental note not to do that.
If you read the great biography of John Rockefeller, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., you learn about potentially getting in trouble with the government. Microsoft had similar problems. So if you were building to a large scale, you’d want to start lobbying and putting some expense into building the general good simultaneous with your business in order to have regulators look favorably on you.
If you’re a salesman, you should find biographies of the best salesmen in similar fields.
Likewise, if you’re doing creative work, you should learn about the habits and practice of highly creative people. Napping is a big one that many great creators would use – Thomas Jefferson would half-nap in a chair with ball bearings in his hand. Immediately after he fell totally asleep, the ball bearings would hit the floor and make a racket and he’d get back up.
That way, he’d get short rests and get the semi-awake creativity bursts.
If you’re a musician, read about the great performers. There’s many biographies and stories about The Beatles’ legendary work ethic when they were first getting started.
If you’re into comedy, check out Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld’s writings on the topic.
If you’re a writer, check out On Writing by Stephen King.
The nature of doing meaningful things in the world means it can be lonely and individualistic. The stereotype of creativity feeds into that. But if you wholesale accept that attitude, you wind up making many mistakes you could have avoided.
You’re not alone. Whatever you’re doing, someone has done an excellent job with it in the past. Seek them out, hear their words, learn their lessons, and make lots of great art and lots of money.
Sebastian Marshall writes daily on strategy, philosophy, personal finance, travel, and history. You might enjoy “How to Get a Raise” if you’re salaried and “What Skills Do You Need to be an Entrepreneur? Only Two” if you’re self-employed. His RSS feed is free to join if you like his writing.
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