When something becomes more efficient, it means it requires less energy. For example, before the spear was invented, humans needed to hunt in packs, chasing down their prey until it collapsed from exhaustion. With the spear, a hunt didn’t require as many people. That freed up much of the pack to pursue other interests.
Technology does that. 10,000 years ago animals were domesticated for farming, and plants were harvested, so we no longer had to migrate as the seasons and animals dictated. Hunters and gatherers suddenly didn’t have a purpose, so they pursued new interests and opportunities. Freed from the demands of daily survival, there was time to develop relationships, make pottery and forge with fire.
Until the late 1800’s, America was an agrarian society, with the overwhelming majority working on farms. With the industrial revolution, agriculture became infinitely more efficient, once again displacing huge numbers of workers. They were free to pursue other interests and opportunities, which led to the rise of the American factories. We became a manufacturing society.
Due to the more rapid pace of technological innovation, within 50 years, the majority of humans were displaced from manufacturing and were free to pursue new interests and opportunities. We didn’t need as many workers, so kids left the workforce and went to school longer. America became a services economy.
Now, technology is making service industries more efficient, once again displacing workers and requiring fewer people to produce the same amount. So, kids are staying in school even longer and people are once again free to pursue new interests and opportunities.
It’s hard to imagine how a gatherer felt when she was replaced by a farm animal or a cotton picker by the cotton gin, but I would imagine it felt just as awful as when a factory worker was replaced by a robot or a bookkeeper by QuickBooks. They must have felt just as uncertain about the future and their place in it. During these transition periods, people feel worthless and desperate. We grieve for the future.
The world goes on though. During these transitional phases, society has to deal with the rebalancing of how skills are valued and so it can be quite painful for those who are competing with technology, for it can typically do the job faster, better and cheaper. So what comes after a service economy? I believe it is a creative one.
Hence, the Rise of the Creatives title to this article and my New Year’s Resolution for 2015. So, what’s involved?
My goal for this year is to stop apologizing for being creative, to see the value in what I create and be okay with monetizing it, just like anyone else who delivers something of real value. I have worked in an industry where some people have made billions while proudly proclaiming, “I’ve never had an original thought in my life.” Yet, those same people can look at an artist’s work and say, “My kid could have painted that.”
I believe it is possible to stay true to your vision, to maintain pure, beautiful goals while making money, yes, even a lot of money. This year will be about experimenting with technology, social media, and traditional methods with the goal of learning how creatives can extract the value of their contribution to society. Why should a fiber artist be ashamed to make millions, but someone who hasn’t contributed an original thought in his life isn’t? Why should a painter or a writer work for free, while the new CEO of a company that has existed for 100 years doesn’t? When you bring joy and happiness to the masses, there is real value in it and it isn’t diminished when you get paid for it, any more than Instagram became less useful when it’s founders were paid billions for it.
Money is currency that can allow you the freedom to go bigger and bolder, to pursue your most creative visions. Why should we have to beg each time we want to try something new? Why grants rather not profits? Why should we have to depend on the whims of a few gatekeepers of cash every time we have a new idea? If there is value in beauty and smiles, and we can deliver it, why should we be ashamed to benefit from it?
This year is about being proud to be one of the creatives. It is about building not just the current project, but the foundation upon which future projects can be developed, without having to ask the permission of a non-creative each time. It is about understanding that the only way to not sellout, is to profit from our work. With money comes freedom. Freedom to push the boundaries of our imagination.
So this year is about learning how to be creative, how to monetize that creativity, and to help others do the same. Along the way, I’m sure I will meet others who agree with me and many more who will revile it. I will learn lessons and make lots of mistakes. I will be cheered and criticized. As I type, I’m realizing it will actually be no different than what I’ve dealt with as a yarnbomber in the wild.
I hope you will follow along, get involved, learn from my mistakes and successes and then share it with others. Change is coming. Power to the creatives!