Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, entrepreneur, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Articles → Talent increases. Resourcefulness decreases. Are you sustainable?

A woman came up to me at a music biz conference, handed me her CD, and very proudly said, “This album cost $80,000 and two years to record. Everything is top-notch - we used one of the finest studios in the world.”

She wanted me to be impressed, but once she said “$80,000” I lost hope in her ability to make a living making music.

The music may be brilliant, but for a career to be sustainable, it has to be profitable.

I'd be much more impressed with someone who could make an album for $8000, because that would show sustainability. They could record 10 albums for the price of hers!

I'd be most impressed with someone who could say, “This album cost nothing, and took two months to record, because I used my own home studio, and know how to make it sound great. My next 10 albums will also cost nothing.”

A big hit at the Cannes Film Festival last week was the movie “Colin”, made for only $70. Director Marc Price used volunteer actors, used leftover makeup, and borrowed friends' equipment. American and Japanese distributors are interested. (Read more about it, here.)

There's a similar story behind El Mariachi, made for only $7000, by Robert Rodriguez, who went on to do Spy Kids, Sin City, and I'm sure has decades of innovative filmmaking left in him.

Both are admittedly low-budget, but prove the resourcefulness of the director, and their ability to make a great film despite any restraints.

If I was an investor, I'd invest in that kind of person.

Talent usually increases over time, but the ability to be resourceful usually decreases over time.

It's best for a career to start from a place of absolute resourcefulness.