Sunday, September 29, 2013


A term I've been using, and has come to annoy me, is 'creatives' referring to a broad category of professions - painting, illustrators, musicians, writers etc.

It's a useful term, it has currency, but it has downsides as well. For example, if it were limited to people who create content - either in the abstract - intellectual property, plans, scripts, designs, schematics etc. or material - sculpture, paintings, finished product, furniture, buildings etc. I'd be totally fine, totally relaxed about throwing 'creative' round as a catch-all profession.

But it comes with baggage too. Reverence and exceptionalism and judgement. And this leads to a paradox I have come across again and again. Some of the least creative people I've met, are those most readily identified as 'creatives'.

Perhaps by contrast, the most overlooked for creative ability, are those most readily identified as 'suits' or even I'm told, 'military brass'.

It's a big call and a hard position to defend, by and large, because it's so hard to identify creativity. It gets smudged into a bunch of other words like 'originality' that I feel is unrealistic and damaging to many creatives, and 'intelligent' which correlates but is neither sufficient nor I suspect necessary, for creating.

For me, I feel in personal experience, being creative involves a lot of insight and very very little imagination. The reason being, that if you have sufficient insight, the answers (I find, at least,) are quite obvious. There was a Ford engineer that once wrote on a wall in his office 'the solution to this problem, once found, will be simple.' In a fine example of a suit understanding the creative process.

It's the 'exceptionalism' that comes with the term 'creatives' that gets annoying. Because really, there's no career advice I'd give to a creative, that I wouldn't to a suit. And I find it hard to imagine situations that apply to creatives that don't to suits, or don't have a direct analogy.

This leads to creatives getting a reverence that they really haven't earned. And really, the unappreciated difference between respecting and revering is something about creatives that gets up my nose often.

Here are the real differences - 'creatives' are almost universally undertaking a scalable, or 'winner takes all' profession. Thus the revenue's of creative pursuits are distributed inequitably, you have a heap of people making no money, you have a few people making a lot (or all there is to be made, at least).

That's pretty much an exhaustive list of the differences. The use of a term like 'creative' comes into play when comparison to other people's lives, and lifecycles is both unfair and non-favorable. It serves nobody to point out that a 'creative' can't afford to buy a house, nor can guaruntee their income. These are all intrinsic to the risks of the scalable profession.

But then the lack of comparison can also be unfair, and serve nobody. I meet a citizen of Thailand, a lifelong Chiang-Mai resident, and I might comment that he is very 'exotic'. But this is only relative to my cultural grounding. I feel when a suit bumps up with a creative at a party, the creative will indeed seem 'creative' relative to the suit.

Note though that I use the term 'suit' which really doesn't describe the rest of us at all. Also note that I identify both with creatives and 'the rest of us'. The point being that within the context of creative world, what you will notice increasingly is, that many creatives, aren't really creative at all. They just exude an interest in creativity. In the same way that my Thai friend, isn't exotic at all in his home village.

So let's draw the line in the other direction for once. Walk into an office full of suits, and you'll realise that the term 'non-creative' doesn't work as a catch-all. Offices contain very creative people, as does the military and other scenes you might be inclined to call a heirarchy or even, 'organisation' with the suggestion of being organised.

But to be fair, you will notice a lot of people, who's job consists of facilitating a procedure. Often a procedure they did not design themselves, nor one they apply critical faculties to to refine it. Many many people simply conduct useful work, but are not themselves creative in any sense. The same applies to artists, writers, sculptors, musos etc.

Yet, while it seems almost admirable for somebody to point to the worker living a routine existence in an office 5 days a week, and say 'what are you really doing with your life?' it is considered exceptional, and people will take exception if you point at an artist churning out meaningless artwork and ask them 'what are you doing with your life?'

There are, as a percentage, as many people in an office just so they could wear a suit, as there are musos on stage just so they could have an album recorded.

And the point, once synthesised, is that a term like 'creative' gives many a free pass assumption that they have somehow found meaning in their life, that they are living their passion. It's simply not true, in fact this very free pass allows many 'creatives' to not even ask the hard questions of themselves.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fear Itself

I'm not sure what I experienced. But I experienced it, and other people did too. I'm fairly sure it was a universally horrible experience.

What made it horrible, was that it wasn't our experience, we were merely witness to it.

My friend once pointed out that you can't keep making bad decisions and not have them catch up to you eventually. In a similar vein I read in a book 'it is my experience that life makes us pay for our mistakes... what you are experiencing now is that payment.'

Here is the thing with bad decisions though, they compound perhaps? Yes, my experience also confirms that we have to pay for our mistakes - but this doesn't deprive us of choice in how we pay for those mistakes. And how we pay for them is yet another opportunity to make a good or bad decision.

You can either - take the pain now. Also known as cutting your losses, which is to make one painful payment to get out of the situation. Or you can remain in the situation and make a small payment every day for the rest of your life.

You reach an age where your friends start getting married. You reach an age when your friends start having children. Scariest though is reaching an age where your friends start paying for mistakes they made earlier down the track.

The worst outcome in your career is not perhaps losing a job you quite liked. It is maybe, keeping a job you dislike. The worst outcome in love is not being left by somebody you loved, but maybe keeping somebody you don't love.

What seems ridiculous is how escapable these worst-cases appear to be. It only takes one to end a relationship. An employee can quit at any time. There are exit fees to be sure. But that's the pain you can take now to be rid of the daily pain you will experience otherwise.

I can understand a degree of hesitation, because many of these exit strategies once commenced will carry out on you. What I don't understand is how people feel trapped into simply making payments for the rest of their life.

It must be fear. That's the limit of my imagination. People just must be afraid to set these painful processes in motion.

I like to style myself as thinking, that I'm in respect to the long run MORE afraid that tomorrow will be no better or worse than today, than I am that tomorrow might be worse than today.

A fluctuation I can handle, a long-term trend terrifies me.

While I wouldn't say we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear makes for bad decisions it seems, and thus may be one of the things most worthy of fearing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

3 kinds of shit

I forget where I read it now, but it's not mine. But basically what I read was, you get three kinds of shit, chicken shit, bull shit and elephant shit.

In any profession you gotta watch for all three, but particularly as a creative. Why? Because I think the business models in the creative sector are so poor, that self-delusion is common. To be an artist, almost by default you need to grossly overestimate your odds of success, just to show up. Know what I'm saying.

Another way of looking at it, is you need a lot of positive self talk 'ignore all the others, YOU can do this!' etc. which is great, it does greatly enhance your chances of success.

A bi-product I suspect though, is you wind up working in an industry populated by people who believe they can do stuff, deliver stuff, achieve stuff with no real evidence or requirement for evidence. Not populated exclusively, but I just suspect that people channel the positive self-talk into side jobs - support jobs for other artists - and suddenly they're telling you when they tell themselves 'sure we can do this, this will be great, this is all good, it will be fine.'

The thing is, nothings ever binary, it's always a spectrum, artists are entreprenuers, risk takers, artists patrons are risk takers, and much of the affiliated professionals are risk takers and they provide important services and opportunities.


There's this tactic when you are starting out, to make stuff happen and to get you learning. It's basically, agree to everything, take the job, say yes, then figure out how to do it. It's an urge to seem reassuring so you get the business. It's useful.

Chickenshit is not much to worry about, when you are getting a tour from a young entrepreneur who answers your questions universally positively, it just means you have to chase them for those details later. A little experience goes a long way, and usually it's just a matter of pressing for commitment. The paper work etc.

The opportunity at this end of the spectrum is that the price is right. You are both learning at the right stage, all the headaches and paperwork involved. If you are an artist just starting out, dealing with these people can leave some money left over for you.

It just needs to be low risk stuff, this isn't compulsive lying, this is where people are effectively telling you 'I'll sort it out later' like a teenager with chores. Go to somebody who knows what they are doing, and they charge you a premium, the undertaking might go without a hitch, but you may end up with a double whammy of making nothing and learning nothing. A few headaches induced by chickenshit can be a good thing.


There's this great line of Casey Affleck's in 'Gone Baby Gone' where he says to Omar from the wire "I can't think of a reason big enough for him to lie to me that is small enough to ignore." It's a fire big enough to burn you so your recognize the smoke next time.

Say you ask about a liquor license, it's the difference between being told 'yeah we can sort that out and send you a form' and 'yeah it's all good, we sell it here all the time.' That's the difference between chicken up to bull.

In that specific example, it's bullshit because the answer is indirect. It's not a definitive 'yes, we are a licensed premises' it's a dodge. It is one thing for somebody to lie to be reassuring, it's another because they are trying to get away with something.

In this case and the above, the response is to try and hammer shit down into some kind of binding agreement. The difference is that when somebody lies to you because they are trying to get away with something, at what point do you decide that they can be worked with at all?

Because ultimately, there will be shit you need to rely on them for. Even if it's just turning up to let you in the building, and if they let you down, you have to eat the embarrassment.

Bullshit's more concerning because it can cost you too. The person is running a scam, it isn't the lie of a novice coming from inexperience. It's somebody who is skimming off an otherwise functional business model.

If they don't get around to putting up the posters you agreed on, or provide the audience they promised, even if it's in the contract. Can you afford to sue? as an artist, the answer be - probably not.


Spawns the cliche 'too good to be true' if you get sucked into this shit, it's the kind of thing that leaves you feeling pretty stupid after the fact. I believe Hitler said something to the effect of 'the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.'

I find elephant shitters easy to spot for sheer ridiculousness. They promise a whole heap of grandiose stuff that will help you out and make your dreams come true. You should be suspicious because it sounds so easy on you, that everyone else should be riding this ticket to success. You should be suspicious because somebody is helping you with seemingly no motivation at all. You should seem suspicious because there's no evidence they can actually provide what they claim.

People who talk elephantshit don't so much have an opinion on everything, but have the correct opinion on everything. They've unlocked the secret, everything they touch is presently going to turn to gold.

These guys can exist because they are like spam male that promises to enlarge your penis or deposit a bunch of money in your account. They are so transparently a scam that the people who would shut them down if burned don't touch them at all. They are dangerous because they are lying to themselves most often as well, completely out of touch with reality, they can take $1500 of your money and turn it into cold hard nothing. They can have you locked into a job for months only to shut down before it can see the light of day. Most often they just completely waste your time.

My only advice is to answer this question: would you want to win the lottery? Really. Think about it. To win a bunch of money rather than earn it. Imagine going to a millionaire's party with your lottery check - and talking to somebody who actually built a profitable business. Or somebody that actually came up with a life saving patent, or somebody who did exactly what you want to do, but actually did it.

The best way to avoid being burned in general is to adopt an attitude where you want to do the work and you want to do it hard. The kind of details you want taken care of, are the ones you can do easily and are simply tedious and take time. You want to do everything that is challenging yourself. The kind of things you want taken off your hands by somebody who assures you they can do them, are the things you know for sure can be done.

Otherwise if I could impart my own experience in intuiting when I'm being lied to, and how big that lie is, I'd have no bankable skill on that front, and I'm not really sure that I am good at it.

It's a work in progress.

Monday, September 02, 2013


In 1800 maybe, you would have walked around and talked to people with weeping sores on their face, the wealthy would have had dentures, the working classes an incomplete set of brown and yellow teeth.

People would have limped around in chronic pain, with injuries far more commonplace. People would have died young and disease would have devastated whole families.

I literally holidayed in Cambodia, where a doctor performed a concert to raise awareness of the 'passive genocide of millions' that is the children in countries like Cambodia that die from simple conditions such as dehydration resulting from diarrhea resulting from mosquito transmitted disease.

You walk the streets of Bangkok, a country over and beggars line the streets with conditions that simply don't exist in a country like Australia. Not diseases, but simply untreated wounds that fester. I mean you hear things about the beggars of Thailand, so it's hard to say if conditions that appear to be a complete lack of antibiotics is any reflection on the state of, or attitude to health-care.

My point being, that if you travel (or time travel) to these places, the amount of suffering that could be prevented we could plainly see and quantify. We could compare it to the world live in. We know it is possible to live without dehydration and with all our teeth.

We live and walk around in a world now, where pathology is written on people's faces and in their eyes. On certain streets you can see addiction as visibly as a Thai beggar's fractured leg.

Can you now envision a world where people get their heads looked at as routinely as their teeth? I mean I don't envision a world devoid of psychopathy, narcissism, depression etc. But I can envision a world where people almost universally achieve a degree of mental health we aren't currently.

The simple ability to break behavioural legacy's. For people to get better at picking partners than their parents were. That's the future I envision.