Thankfully, this era of jadedness is now drawing to a close and our true human nature is returning to us. Even if we can’t find like minded folks in our own home town, the internet has made it possible to find other members of our tribe, no matter how far flung they may be. It’s possible to make really good friends in this medium and yet, never meet face to face. A new era of sharing is taking shape right now and I find it terribly exciting. The collision of ideas and technology is making things possible for the everyman that were only previously available to the wealthy or connected. Book publishing, music production, movies, politics…it’s all within our grasp and as we take baby steps in figuring out how to use this new toy, there is one thing for certain. People want to share. Gone are the days when you have to go to the library or pay someone to explain a simple process to you. It’s all right here, and it’s free. Anyone can be a student and more and more people with specialized knowledge are stepping forward and offering to be our teachers. There is no earthly reason that anyone reading this now should have to suffer through anything due to lack of knowledge anymore. There are millions of people qualified to answer any question that you may have about virtually any subject. So what is standing in the way of everyone knowing everything they want to? Just two things… greed and fear. The great part is that both can be easily remedied, but it’s going to take a massive shift in thinking in order to get it done.
Shift number one involves the idea that ideas can no longer be sold. Ideas are free. You should feel free to give away all your ideas. Your idea is probably already on the internet and if it’s not, while your keeping it a secret, somebody will publish it before you. Even if you’re the first one out of the gate, people are going to buy it and then share it like crazy, if it’s good. The music industry continues to fight against this with poor results. The nature of music now is that it’s free and people want to share it. The sharing part is not new (mixtape anyone?), it’s the volume of the sharing and the $0 price tag that freaks them out. All the brain-power at the record labels can’t figure out how to monetize around sharing so instead, they sue. They send in RIAA storm troopers to levy stiff fines and threats of jail time against 19 year-old kids and soccer moms. Great way to run a business. On the other hand, Matador and some other indie labels are getting it right. They have started reproducing records on vinyl, the ultimate fetish format. Not only that, but when you buy the vinyl record you get MP3 copies of the songs for free. The record is a souvenir of the idea of the band that the buyer is already sold on. This is how Seth Godin got so famous. Seth Godin gives away books online and then charges people for souvenir copies that they can carry around with them. They’ve already read the book online, they have already bought into his brand, but they still want to own the souvenir. Why? Because people want to feel connected. They like to touch things. They like objects. If they read something online that they really like, they want to have a hard copy with binding that they can carry around and highlight and pass on to friends. It seems incongruous, but if you give away your stuff, people will still pay you for it. Godin also has some insights on how you look at producing content. He likens concentration on the monetization of an idea to the people at Disneyland worrying about how to make a better gift shop. It’s a flawed process. Instead, the people at Disney concentrate on making a kick ass theme park and telling a powerful story, the souvenirs sell themselves because it’s a story we all like. They pay attention to story first, paycheck second.
The second shift has to happen around another kind of giving. Giving of your process. A while ago, I wrote a post called 5 reasons to give away your trade secrets. There is a lot of fear surrounding this practice. People think that if they give away their soap, beer, scallopini recipe that the public will then go out and make their own and put them out of business. It just doesn’t work that way. Here’s what actually happens when you give away your best stuff…99.9% of the people who download your secrets, won’t ever use them. They’ll be filed away in a drawer and saved for the time when the person feels they have enough “extra” time to prepare the soap, beer, scallopini. That time will probably never come. People feel momentarily creative when they download stuff. They get off on the potential that an instruction sheet possesses, but what usually happens is that they get crunched for time and never act. Then, they go and buy your soap/beer/scallopini because they remember where they got the very generous instructions. That is scenario one. Scenario two is that the person is successful at making the soap/beer/scallopini and feels good about themselves. They use what they have made and when it runs out, instead of making more, they move on to a different project and simply order your soap/beer/scallopini instead of making any more of their own. Scenario three (the nightmare), is the scene where someone actually ganks your idea and makes a business out of it. These bastards are actually using YOUR recipe and selling YOUR soap/beer/scallopini and reaping a profit! Curses! Well, in a way, this is the best scenario because it contains the largest potential for growth. It’s hard to have your stuff ripped off, but the good news is, you don’t have to worry about it. Karma will take care of these folks without you lifting a finger. Besides, you’ve got plenty more ideas where that came from and anyway, you’ve built your brand around Y-O-U, not soap/beer/scallopini and nobody can rip Y-O-U off. You’ll be fine. It’s the thieves who should watch their backs. They are the one’s who are playing a dangerous game with the universe. Not you. Unless of course you elect to spend your time fretting about it, sending cease and desist letters and litigating. Waste of energy. Pour it back into the work, the thing you love. Let the negative go and concentrate on making something new and fantastic.
It’s funny to me that people want to cling so tightly to the old way business was done. Especially since the new way is here now, it works if you work it, and people are having radical success with it. All the evidence points to the needed shift, but fear is strong. They don’t say “paralyzed with fear” for nothing. It can be completely incapacitating. I get it. If you can overcome it even a little bit though, there’s a big win in your future.