A good post by Seth Godin about doing it for free

This describes me:

I was reading John Hammond’s biography entry, (John discovered Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and yes, Count Basie) and I noticed that he was independently wealthy.

Woz wasn’t looking to make a lot of money when he invented the Apple computer, and Nolan Bushnell certainly didn’t imagine he was creating the video game industry when he invented Pong. Cory and the rest of the boingboing team had no revenue for years, and Digg and Yahoo! and dozens of other key websites were started without an eye on profit, never mind revenue. The same thing is true for Julia Child and Gene Roddenberry and Dean Kamen.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems that pioneers are almost never in it for the money. The smart ones figure out how to take a remarkable innovation and turn it into a living (or a bigger than big payout) but not the other way around. I think the reason is pretty obvious: when you try to make a profit from your innovation, you stop innovating too soon. You take the short payout because it’s too hard to stick around for the later one.

Irony #1 is that business journalists always ask pioneers about the money. And then they are incredulous when they hear the answer. They make up bogus numbers or just assume the pioneer is lying. They don’t see the trend.

The second irony is that people who want to join the pioneers are often focused on a steady paycheck and juicy options… they would probably be better off seeking the edgiest thing they can find, run by the most devoted visionary.

I do way to many things for free or that have the visibility of zero payoff. It’s why I have few friends, and few people that even believe in what I am doing.

4 thoughts on “A good post by Seth Godin about doing it for free

  1. dean

    Intereset article but I must disagree. In the case of WOZ, what may have started as a hobby quickly became business fueled by EGO. No one goes to Stanford with egalitarian interests unless they are already financially set or there is a business plan with a pot of gold at the end.

    Experience tells me that devoted visionaryies are found in two distinct phases of life. Phase one occurs in youth where possibility of what can be is not influenced by jaded reality or practical knowledge. This is also the dumb and happy stage. Sometimes what you don’t know keeps you from being your own buzz kill. High levels of energy and lack of responsibility to family are the fuel of the vision.

    Stage two is a calculated plan born from experience and a vision of some sort. I will stereo type this person as a 30-45 year old. This person requires a great idea and business plan to raise capital or, the achieved financial success to the level they can self fund the project. At this stage devoted visionaries must have a payout potential or they don’t embark on the journey. the energy requirements and time requirements are too great to sacrifice on half baked ideas (that may work).

  2. Joel

    One thing that I like about life is that working with an eye toward helping others can pay off very measurably. To a certain extent it is more true than ever since there is so much noise in advertising and marketing.

    How do I get my real estate customers? I do things for them for free. When it comes time for them to use a real estate agent, they are more likely to come to me since I have taken the first step of friendliness and trust.

    Also, I didn’t know that you had only a few friends. Do those other people know something that I don’t? ;)

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