You are an artist. You may not see yourself that way, but it’s true. You’re probably not an eccentric poet or a painter balanced on the brink of insanity. You don’t have to be. Art is something else entirely. Art is an attitude. Art is the unique work of a person who’s doing what she wants to do, who makes things or does things that inspire others. We need that kind of art; it connects us with our heart and soul and with others. Art is what we do and who we are.
It gets better. Never before has the world so eagerly awaited your unique contribution. Think about it. The Web has created an economy of connection, which has changed the nature of everyday things: how we communicate with one another, how we listen to music, which books we read, how we choose a restaurant. We are no longer confined to mediocre mass-market products. If there were ever a time to give the world something of yourself–a new idea, something you created, something that moves you–this is it. So stop looking for a job. Create your own work and surprise yourself–and everyone else.
Seth Godin puts it well in The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? Things that were once safe bets–academic degrees, full-time jobs–are no longer. Large companies are no longer dominant. The step to entrepreneurship has never been so small. There are websites where, through crowdfunding, you can cobble together modest amounts of money to finance a good idea. There are websites for open source design, through which people collaborate to develop better products. From there it’s a tiny step to using search engines to find a factory that will take your credit card, then manufacture and ship a modest run of your niche-product brainchild. These you sell on your website–created with the uber-easy WordPress, of course–using search engine optimization and social media.
Godin calls it the way of the “artist”; others speak of “makers.” Among them is Chris Anderson, until recently the editor-in-chief of Wired. In Makers, Anderson describes how artists are increasingly turning into entrepreneurs thanks to the Internet and access to ever better and cheaper manufacturing techniques such as 3D printers and laser cutters. Those possibilities, Anderson predicts, will lead to a revival of the economy. Hence the book’s subtitle: The New Industrial Revolution.
Two-thirds of Americans are dissatisfied with their workload, according to a recent survey by employee assistance provider ComPsych Corp. There’s a way out: Leave. There are 23 million small business owners in America, the vast majority of them nonemployer firms (one person working without employees). The number of nonemployer firms has risen 25 percent since 2002.
It used to be hard to start a business. The original entrepreneurs were often inventors who applied for a patent. They were both smart and privileged. For a long time, Karl Marx was right: The power belongs to those who control production. You might have invented some gizmo, but if you couldn’t interest a corporate giant to fabricate millions of copies of it, your creativity had been for nothing.
Today, the Internet has made it possible for a clever teenager with an idea and a computer to create a company. “The beauty of the Web is that it democratized the tools both of invention and of production,” says Anderson. He believes the path from inventor to entrepreneur “is so foreshortened it hardly exists at all anymore.”
This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared in The Intelligent Optimist magazine. Want to see more? Click here for a free digital issue of The Intelligent Optimist magazine–on us!