Do you really need a "blueprint" to be successful? Advice from daVinci and Edison

Catch the previous posts here: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Welcome to Day 5 of the Creative Freedom Challenge!

Today's topic is dangerous, and muy importante. As a coach and trainer myself, it's a bit sacrilegious for me to suggest that spending mucho dinero on some guru's "blueprint" or training program is a bad idea. I mean, I offer my own programs and services to help creative entrepreneurs build profitable businesses, so why would I put my own business in jeopardy by saying something like this?

For one, I make a point of telling my clients that no one approach will work for everyone, and that my programs are built on frameworks - customizeable elements that you can modify based on who you are and what really matters to you.

For another, not everyone needs a coach, a program, or a blueprint. Period. Sometimes you're already on the right path, you just need more time to get where you're headed. Confucius said "it does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop."

Blueprints have their place. But they're not the be-all, end all of your business building efforts.

Around 1920 in my hometown, General Motors established a house-building division to provide housing for all the new factory workers coming to live and work there. The Modern Housing Corporation built homes across industrial America using a handful of designs. In my old neighborhood, there were just three different house plans on my street - but every house was as unique as the owner that lived in it.

Blueprints are a starting point.

This is where architects begin. But they can only take you so far. And it completely lacks in any personality until you put your fingerprint on the design. Sure, you'll know exactly how to build a house that has a certain structure, but then what? The blueprint doesn't tell you anything about the neighborhood the house is being built in, the furniture or paint that will decorate it, or the people that will live in it once it's complete.

If you've ever lived in a house that just didn't work for you, you understand this problem intimately!

If you're further along than "just starting out", you probably don't need a blueprint. What's more, in business, more often than not, a blueprint only helps with a skill set - it shows you a particular way to do something related to building your business... like how to do a webinar, how to build a mailing list, or how to grow an audience.

All those things are great, but you need to also understand how they work together in YOUR unique situation. Depending on the Great Work that you do, you'll need a strategy to implement several tactics. Should you send a weekly email, or will you need to use video? Do you need a large audience, or do you prefer something more intimate? What about social media? And joint ventures, and blogging, and....

...you get the picture.

Take what you need, dump the rest.

In my decades in the online world (I built one of the first e-commerce websites back in the 1990's!), I've learned how to do LOTS and LOTS of things. I've learned and used LOTS of different tactics, strategies, platforms, and tools to support and grow my businesses. But deciding which ones to use (and how much, and when) are like the interior design of a home. I had to figure out what worked for me.

You'll have to do the same for yourself.

Yes. I said HAVE to. If you want to stop being a best-kept secret (or worse, a commodity), you need to "decorate" with your own flair. You need to find what works for who you are, who you serve, and how you want to show up in the world.

But that doesn't have to be as hard as it sounds.

Inventory Your Tools & Skills

Think about all the tools & skills you need to to your Great Work and bring it to the world. Start building a list and make special note of the ones that you enjoy.

Bookkeeping, design, email marketing, webinars, craft shows... whatever it is, just start building a list. Me? I love performing, but I don't always like rehearsing. Both are important to bring my Great Work into the world, but performing gets a special "hell yeah" from me.

It could be you like working in-person vs. online, mid afternoon vs. evenings, or that you couldn't live without your email list or bridge line. Maybe you like twitter over facebook, bookkeeping over customer service, or the phone over Skype. Maybe you really haven't figured out what makes your heart sing, but you have an inkling that some things are working better for you than others.

You might have also tapped into some less tangible resources. One of the first students in the Creative Freedom Apprenticeship listed "positivity" as one of her resources. You might find that you can't live without positive people, or a sense of freedom. These less tangible resources are just as important as your physical tools of the trade - sometimes more so.

The point of this list is to give you more clarity (Yay! Clarity!). This is the short list of what works for who you are and what you're up to right now. And yes, that list is bound to change over time because YOU change over time. Don't get married to it, and don't start making sweeping changes because of it. For now, the awareness is enough.

But what about the tools and resources that aren't a good fit?

Here's where I want you to start thinking beyond yourself.

Teamwork is sexy.

It's also incredibly smart and a great way to encourage greatness in others. Don't believe me?

POP QUIZ: Without Googling, can you tell me the name of Leonardo da Vinci's teacher?

Most people, if they're not travelling in art circles, can't tell you a thing about Verrocchio. If they do know him, he's most often referred to as "da Vinci's teacher"

It's like when the teachers at my son's elementary school knew me as "Forest's mom." For them, my identity didn't exist beyond their knowledge of my kid. It didn't matter that I was a musician with multiple albums to my credit, or that I've helped clients double or triple their income, launch best-selling books, and create entirely new revenue streams for their businesses (plus reduce the amount of time they need to spend managing things).

Nope. I was just "Forest's mom" to them.

Just because you're good at it doesn't mean you should be doing it.

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Verrocchio was a master in his own right: sculptor, painter, goldsmith. People paid hefty sums to have their children study with him.

Verrocchio's method was simple: he'd start a project and leave it to his apprentice to finish it up. In that way, the apprentice learned how to paint, sculpt, or smith exactly the way Verrocchio did.

With so many Verrocchio clones out there, competition would drive prices down. So rather than compete on price, Verrocchio kept his students employed in his own studios. Verrocchio's students were able to make a decent living by replicating Verrocchio's style. Essentially, his students became his clones... for a fraction of Verrocchio's rate.

Verrocchio made a great living teaching and paying other artists to paint, sculpt, and smith the same way he did. He was able to leverage his time and money well enough to have multiple studios in Europe.

There's nothing wrong with following a blueprint. Blueprints can be very important. They do what they're designed to do, that's why people use them. Verrocchio's "blueprint" was a model for making a living creating art other people would pay for. It worked, which is why so many people paid him to teach his craft to their children. All they had to do was follow "the master's blueprint" and they were practically guaranteed a job in Verrocchio's studio for life.

But then came da Vinci.

This dude could not be contained! Sure, he learned the Verrocchio "blueprint", but he didn't limit himself to being just a painter or a sculptor.He learned the principles behind Verrocchio's teaching, then applied them in his own way. His unique gift was in seeing the world through fresh eyes.

daVinci's sketch books are filled with drawings and concepts that would have made Verrocchio roll over in his grave. "A flying machine? Che Idiota!"

da Vinci's ideas didn't fit the blueprint, but they represented who da Vinci wanted to be in the world.
So Leonardo da Vinci broke out of Verrocchio's mold and forged his own path outside the studio.

There's a time and a place for a blueprint. But at some point, the student becomes the master and must forge their own path. Just as you need to become the master of your own work, there are "students" of your Great Work, too. You might call them fans or clients, but they're all wanting to experience what you have to offer.

You don't have to do it all on your own, either. Verrocchio had plenty of apprentices in his studios. But you don't have to "clone" yourself to get great help.

Which is where Edison comes in.

Edison: Collaborator and Creative Entrepreneur

Another great inventor, Edison spent every waking minute working on his projects. He was passionate and deeply committed. His wife would sometimes give him a hard time about sleeping at the laboratory. But if he hadn't put in all those hours (and nearly 1000 failed attempts to sustain electric light), we might not have many of the technological advances we take for granted today.

Film, music, and even the Internet owe much to Mr. Edison.

Yet, even with all the hours Thomas Edison put into his Great Work, he knew he couldn't do it all himself.

In fact, many of his greatest inventions were possible because of the team of scientists and inventors that worked with him.

Collaboration and Creation

This is the core of creative entrepreneurship. When you're able to trust your team to co-create and collaborate with you, you get more than just Verrocchio's brand of "discounted copies". You get lasting relationships, you make progress faster, and you can leverage your time in meaningful ways.

Edison didn't just leave his Great Work to his cloned minions. He leveraged his time by bringing in smart, savvy people (like Tesla) so that he could do the things that only Edison could. Edison understood the value of a team, but unlike Verrocchio, he also understood that when great minds come together, a greater mind is created. There's power in collaboration - when you bring together brilliant minds to handle and even improve upon the work you're doing. He didn't always agree with those minds (which is why Tesla left), but he created space for collaboration.

Edison had a vision to illuminate the entire Eastern seaboard and eventually the entire country.

Remember the Artisan trap? If Edison didn't have a team, he'd have spent all his time making and installing lightbulbs instead of focusing on how to market and sell his vision of electricity in every home across the country. In fact, if he had stayed the course, we'd be running on DC power, instead of the more efficient AC power developed by one Tesla. Because Edison was willing to let his collaborators explore other ideas, Tesla eventually left Edison, and took his AC ideas where they had a better chance of implementation.

A rising tide lifts all ships

While Edison is credited on 1093 patents in his lifetime, it didn't happen without the collaborative team working in his lab in Menlo Park. Edison fostered an environment of creative collaboration.

For some creative entrepreneurs, that sounds scary. "What if someone steals my ideas?" Yeah. It happens, but not nearly as often as you think.

Look, you can't play all the instruments in the band. You need to be willing to ask for and accept help appropriately. Sure, your piano player might move on to a new group, but without his help now, your band won't be playing anywhere.

Be willing to ask for (and accept) help in bringing your Great Work to your right audience. As the African proverb says "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together." It's worth noting that sometimes, when you work together, you can go farther faster.

Today's Assignment

  1. Make a list of all the tools and skills you use in your Great Work. Don't worry about it being complete - there's ALWAYS something new to learn in life and business. Just do the best you can. Put a star next to the ones that you really like using. Yay! More clarity for you!
  2. Examine the list of tools that isn't working for you (for me, that's bookkeeping and running reports, ugh!). Add to it the list of stuff you need to handle so you can do more of your Great Work.Hooray! More clarity!
  3. Consider if there might be ONE thing you can ask for help with - even if it's only a one-time ask.
  4. Make the ask.
  5. Whether the answer was yes or no, celebrate that you made the ask in the first place. PROGRESS!

If you're ready to jump into the Creative Freedom Apprenticeship, click here to learn more and get registered. Our next session begins soon!


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