One of the biggest questions I have when it comes to earning mainstream success is:
How do you balance creating art and making money?
This is an important and intriguing question.
Is it really about following your passion, bliss, heart or whatever and then results will follow? I mean, that's how you REALLY add mad value to the world right? You create something so powerful because you believe in it; because you love it. People will be inspired by that. They will recognize your authenticity. Throw in helping people in the mix and you've got a winner. People want to pay for that shit.
Yet, this is not as easy as it sounds. That's not how the world works. If it's all about art fueled by passion, then any dingdong with a heart of gold would be rich and famous.
So is it about branding, marketing and business fundamentals? You have to learn the 'fun' stuff right? All the great entrepreneurs out there have their basics right. Work and business are all about P&L and numbers. I mean, if you aren't making money, then why are you even in business? Do you really think you can last in a job that pays you peanuts even though you love what you do?
Yet, focus too much on just business, numbers, money and you may find yourself killing your own soul. You end up producing shit. You get burnt out. Work sucks you dry and you wish for something more meaningful in life.
I find myself researching and looking for the answer all the time, and nothing seemed to really strike a chord with me, because every answer has a string attached, one which works as a killjoy:
- As a writer, I tend to look up on writing advice from successful authors. The most common answer is, "Write everyday. Do not write because you want to be rich and famous. Write because you love it."
This is to me is good advice if you want to consistently hone your craft.
But it's terrible advice if you need to urgently make money now and survive. If you're broke and have people depending on you, writing, creating art or content everyday as if it's part of a heroic pursuit that would earn you meaning and success in life would honestly feel like a wild goose chase. Even if you're not in urgent need of cash, blindly writing everyday while not marketing your work to reach out to a wider audience just doesn't make sense.
- As an entrepreneur, I read up on successful entrepreneurs and both the business fundamentals and specific tactics they employ to make money. Answers vary widely in terms of branding, marketing and sales. Every one of them seems to have their secret sauce.
This is good advice because it's necessary.
But it's terrible advice because it can make you focus too much on the tangible results you crave so badly for. You end up creating shitty content. You become inauthentic or even a copycat. You start to think that it's only a matter of following their footsteps as you ignore everything about you that makes you equally capable. You also drown yourself miserably in envy as you wonder why you can't seem to achieve the same results.
And in both realms, there are successful people everywhere, even the pretentious assholes.
The artist who creates because he or she loves it only and then created the best fucking thing for the world one day.
The entrepreneur who had such great foresight that they go into battle knowing they will win right from the start as all numbers and possible scenarios were already planned for.
The scammers who actually get away with it.
What is the answer? Who do you follow? Why is it so damn hard when you know... it's not like you're a bad person?
I've come to realize the best answer is to stop giving a fuck about giving a fuck.
Yes, there are two layers. The inner layer of not giving a fuck because you just want to create amazing shit from your passion is something you already probably know.
The outer layer is the important one because it's... well, you just need to stop giving a fuck anymore.
You just go back to work.
You do the work everyday, step by step and slowly move forward.
You stop thinking so damn much because you should be working instead.
You continue doing what you love because it makes you who you are and gives your life meaning. You feel good? Then just continue feeling good.
You shrug your shoulders and reply, "Eh. I don't know the answer. Who gives a fuck?" Then you go back to work. You practice. You train. You stick to the routine.
You stop giving a fuck because you understand finally, that despite not knowing the answer, you courageously trudge on ahead anyway because it's the right thing to do; because there's work to be done.
Artist or entrepreneur. Who the fuck cares?
Even if you do, I hope you're actually working, because there're tons already doing so.
And you know what?
One day, after much work, you'll find your answer because you stopped caring.
In Shaun White's (five-time Olympian and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, world record for the most X Games gold medals and most Olympic gold medals by a snowboarder) interview with Tim Ferris, the following dialogue took place:
Tim: What's your self-talk just because dropping into an Olympic run?
Shaun: I say, "At the end of the day, who cares? What's the big deal? I'm here, I'm going to try my best, and I'm going to go home, and my family's there... Even though my whole world's wrapped up in this, who cares?"
Shaun doesn't give a fuck because he knows that his family is there for him no matter what. I am certain he's feeling the love and satisfaction after putting in all the work. I am certain he puts a stop to thinking so much every now and then.
What then, can you derive from not giving a fuck about giving a fuck as you do the work? Or perhaps, what can you realize are the great things that have been there for you all along?
How would you complete the sentence: "Who cares? I..."
- am already getting noticed. Slowly, but surely!
- have a roof over my head.
- have my other thing. Nobody knows, but I am a bit of a [your hidden talent.]
- have friends I know who are there for me.
- am way ahead than from when I first started.
- already have enough to survive. I don't need to be super rich.
- know my students appreciate me.
- am going home to my super hot girlfriend/boyfriend.
- am helping others and that's really enough for me.
And so on.
Stop giving a fuck. Then stop giving a fuck about giving a fuck about that fuck you wanted to give it to.
Just get to work. Good things will happen.