Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Valuable to others, or only you?

When I'm hot, it's hard for me to imagine that others in the room are cold. I think it really is hot, not that it's hot only for me. It feels like fact, not opinion.

When I do something that's really valuable to me, it's hard for me to imagine that it's not valuable to others. I think it really is valuable, not that it's valuable only for me. It feels like fact, not opinion.

This is common and understandable. Our personal perception feels real. It's hard to see things from another person's point of view.

This is also the core of the “starving artist” problem.

When someone creates something that is really important, powerful, and valuable to them, it's hard to imagine that it's not important, powerful, and valuable to others.

But money only comes from doing something valuable to others.

The starving artist pours his heart into personal expression that's incredibly valuable to him, but not (yet) valuable to others. That's why no money comes.

The good news is there are two ways out of the starving artist problem, and either one can be fun.

1. Focus on making your art more valuable to others.

Art doesn't end at the edge of the canvas. Keep going. Constantly think of the audience point of view. Constantly ask, “How can I be more valuable to them?” You may come up with ideas like:

Then force yourself to try all the best ideas, even if it seems unnatural at first. Read books about business and psychology to get more ideas, since many brilliant minds are asking the same question from a different perspective.

Keep doing this repeatedly, paying attention to feedback from others, and you will become more valuable.

Though if you find in the long run this makes you more miserable than excited, try the other way:

2. Stop expecting it to be valuable to others. Accept it as personal and precious to only you. Get your money elsewhere.

Sex with my wife is very valuable to me and her, but luckily I'm not trying to make it valuable to others.

If you stop expecting your art to be valuable to anyone but you, your conflicted mind can finally be at peace. Do it only because you love it, and it honestly doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

You might even keep it private like a diary, just to be clear who it's really for.

You'll probably be happier with your art because of this change in mindset. Ironically, others may appreciate it more, too, though you honestly won't care. smile

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