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.

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