Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Artist. Inventor. Poet. Philosopher. Someone has to be very lucky to realize all these things. But one way to look at it is that some of it consists of fluff. Who is really going to make money except the inventor? Then, we can ask, is there something wrong with being an inventor? What I have heard is that good inventions happen by accident. Things like toilet plungers and toilets were highly useful, but it was a kind of miracle that they didn’t exist yet. And, basically, it’s possible that someone would steal the invention before a profit was made. John Crapper didn’t exist in ancient Crete, which also had flush toilets. No one in ancient Crete made money selling toilets, I suspect. It was probably state-owned, or was a side job set up for those who already worked hard doing other things. So, even inventing isn’t a miracle unless it’s a miracle.

Now, we can look at this again. Is there some value that can be had in the ‘cheap stuff’?

At first, we might look at poetry, and say, well here is someone with a little education to give them an edge, and they’ve developed a product that might sell----although it’s uncertain how much they might sell. But it turns out they need to be extremely good, and at the same time there’s not a huge market for poetry. So, succeeding in turning poetry into a job is almost unheard-of. Now we turn to art, and here is something that’s easier to market. But you have to be a kind of genius, and also have some practical skill---two things that are sometimes difficult to combine in large quantities. You want to be original, and you also want your art to sell. That’s a tougher bargain than you might think. It takes a kind of total dedication, or there’s no hope of competing with the rest of the market. Now, finally we come to that term ‘competition’! Poets and inventors have competition too, but they rarely think about it until it’s too late. You have to be a kind of psychic. With art its much more clear, it’s about comparing products.

Now, consider a philosopher. He’s got something, right? He probably has more education than the average poet. There’s an opportunity for intellectualism, which is like creativity. He can ‘know the market’ by finding a niche, which just involves ‘doing something new’! What’s wrong with being a philosopher? It turns out, philosophers rarely have a market, and when they do, it is often a small one. A philosopher is like a poet who is even more obscure, but much more sophisticated. He has to create his own market: although a general market might exist, his specific market might not exist. If he can sell his sophistication, then he might acquire a job as a professional academic, and he might sell books. If he’s quasi-famous already, he might sell books without being an academic. But he has to watch his expenses. He doesn’t have money to burn. But, is being a philosopher really the best kind of academic, or the best kind of author? I think it isn’t, in some important ways.

Consider the math genius. He’s a real professor. People have respect for him. Mathematicians are not called ‘quacks’ or ‘arm-chair philosophers’ or ‘navel-gazers’!

So, there is an opportunity: either (1) take some risk, and market yourself beyond the scope of mere philosophy, and risk making very little money, or (2) do something highly professional and sought after, without losing your sanity.

Typically, what is involved is not only having a product which speaks for itself, but also having some innovative marketing strategy, and an ability to connect with the market. This often involves establishing some kind of professional connection which goes beyond the minimum obligation. For example, you may be involved in professional music groups, join a discussion for philosophers, read poetry at poetry gatherings, or make inventions as part of a pre-established job description. Suddenly, inventing seems like the hard part, whereas these other categories have it easy.

Which (1 or 2) is riskier, and can be avoided? This determines the sort of reward you can achieve being a Renaissance man. Or, if you thrive on risk, you can create a persona centered on selling your image as ‘cutting-edge’. However, to some extent, you can do this even without creating risks. It may even help to take a conservative position in order to master many categories at once. This allows you to balance one thing against another, and ‘not keep all your eggs in one basket’. Instead of being an anomaly, you’re a strategist.

Additional Resources:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing (Free, and easy if you have Adobe software and experience). They publish not only books and e-books, but videos, music, and apps (I think).

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