Business/Art Parallels

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As a person with a lot of interest in both art and entrepreneurship, it felt like I should go ahead and start keeping a log of things that I noticed were applicable between the two worlds.

Believing things will work requires an element of delusion

Thinking that your startup will take off has the same energy as believing your Soundcloud is going to blow up. The craziest part of both of those beliefs is that every once in a while, they end up being true.

Different levels of success come with different levels of attainability

Immediately upon writing the last point, I realized it needed this nuance added. It’s easier to be a local artist or a small business than to be the next Bieber or the next Facebook. The question becomes ‘what level of success is going to be right for you’ and that’s hard to answer in the hypothetical, much less make real-world decisions on.

“Selling out” draws criticism even though it’s kind of the point

Selling out is a lot more literal for startups acquired by larger companies, but the term gets applied to art enough that I think this is a meaningful overlap. My take for a while has been: why wouldn’t an artist want to make money with their work? Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Scenes are generative, supportive, hard to replicate

I realized pretty quickly writing about scenes was going to have to be its own note.

In general, scenes for artists and for entrepreneurs (mostly of the tech variety) are highly similar. You’ve got a bunch (or maybe a few) really passionate people all hanging out and swapping ideas. Their goal isn’t to make something incredible or earth-shattering, just to have fun with their craft and have a good time building together. It’s only once people outside the scene start looking in that the rest of the world realizes wow, they’ve been crafting some really brilliant shit over here.

I think scenes are also important places because they offer a safe environment for sucking at stuff. When people who are passionate about making things are trying out new techniques or testing new ideas, having a group of people nearby who will give feedback that’s honest but not discouraging is crucial. Remember that criticism is really a form of love, here.

The big players have the ability to experiment and fail; little players do not

It’s pretty remarkable how you can name any A-list Hollywood actor and then skim their IMDb for the various flops they’ve been a part of. Big companies are similarly insulated from their mistakes; Google Glass didn’t end Google.

On the other end of the spectrum, a bad season for a local business or a poorly-received album for a regional band can mean the absolute end of the line.

The best way to succeed is having successful mentors

Usher is to Justin Bieber what Y Combinator was to Airbnb. When I say ‘best’ what I mean is fastest, cheapest, least risky. The recipients of powerful mentorship don’t deserve their success any less than those that had to make it without the help, but it’s worth bearing in mind the leg up that such support brings.


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