Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Risking Today’s Time for Tomorrow’s Treasure

I started blogging over ten years ago. 

And after over a million words written, blogging taught me was to adopt an incrementalist mindset. Because it’s not about one key post that changes everything, it’s about performing day after day, helping a few people a little at a time and trusting that the accumulation of the work will bear fruit. And, because most blogs are abandoned a few months after creation, maintaining continuity over the long haul separates you from the pack. Proving, that the best way to beat the odds is through massive output.

Blogging also taught me that every blog post is a product. Every post its own piece of digital merchandise, with its own launch date, target market, social trajectory, leveragability and profitability. Some blow up, some just blow. Some make a killing, some just make a thud. But as long as you show up every day and post, you’re still in the game. But if you never click the publish button, you’re just winking in the dark.

It’s only a matter of time, as I like to tell myself.

I’m reminded of when Don Marquis, the renowned humorist, journalist, author and playwright, famous said that publishing was like dropping a rose petal down a canyon and waiting for the echo.

What a perfect way to describe delayed gratification.

The problem is, delayed gratification isn’t sexy. Patience is not a primary agenda item for most of the world. Especially these day, when our technology tricks us into thinking that everything does, and should, happen right now. And yet, it’s something all prolific creators have in common. Their capacity for delayed gratification makes it possible for them to aspire to objectives that others would disregard.

Bob Lefsetz, former attorney, music industry analyst and critic, writes a prolific, insightful and useful publication called The Lefsetz Letter. He explores a variety of themes, including the diminishing role of the major record labels, grassroots artist activities, digital media distribution, new business models for the music industry, and my personal favorite, what it takes to become a successful artist.

In a recent issue, he made a powerful case for delayed gratification:

“Stay in school. I know, some of the biggest legends of the entertainment business never finished college, some didn’t even complete high school. But that was then, and this is now. The sixties were different. We lived in an homogeneous society. Social mobility was rampant. You could go from middle class to upper class quite easily. Rich was within your grasp. But no longer. And the brightest stars of today’s society know it. That’s why the graduates go into finance and stay there, while the great unwashed star in reality television programs, get famous for a few years, then slide back into obscurity when the trade on their fame has lost most of its zeros. We know their names, but they’re footnotes, trivia questions, if you think they’re rich, you don’t know what rich is. Life is long. If you’re not prepared for delayed gratification, you’re going to have a very rough ride.”

The point is, it’s not about college, it’s about continuity. Staying the course. Delaying gratification. Risking today’s time for tomorrow’s treasure. Believing that it’s only a matter of time. And know that those who practice patience, become prolific.