Back in 2009, in a brilliantly inspired publication called New Liberal Arts, the people at Snarkmarket brought together a short treatise by modern thinkers on a range of subjects inspired by blogger Jason Kottke’s coining of the phrase “Liberal Arts 2.0”. It is presented as a 21st Century update to the subjects considered in Classical times as essential education for the free person. You can download a copy here.
The first of these new liberal arts tackled in the book is Attention Economics where Andrew Fitzgerald exposes the pickle we’ve gotten ourselves into in our new digital world and then suggests a few items for consideration to help us through the maze.
Andrew pinpoints 4 particular areas for attention and these are Multi-tasking, Ambient Consumption, Focus and Stillness.
All of this recognises that the rarest and most precious of commodities now isn’t gold, or diamonds or oil, but attention. How difficult we find it to give our attention to any one thing for any length of time. We are constantly pulled one way then the other as millions of souls worldwide jostle for this precious attention; precious because it is finite and the desire for it infinite. It’s a classic case of low supply, high demand and as a result of that (if we are talking purely in Capitalist terms) our attention is valuable. It’s valuable to everyone out there in digital land who wants to sell us stuff or just get us interested in their ideas. It’s valuable to us personally. If we give it all to our Twitter and Facebook feeds then we’ll have none left to use on our own projects and dreams. It’s valuable to the real people around us, whether they are family, friends or a stranger on the bus.
We can all think of strategies to conserve our attention for the most important things in our lives, but implementing these is more difficult than it seems. Plans and goals are subject to constant external pressures. Habits are much harder to break, so making good habit formation a priority seems like one way to overcome attention deficit.
Of course, a person of freedom who makes a living from her or his life, needs to think of attention from both sides. Conserving your attention for the important things is all well and good and even though it’s difficult, it is ultimately in your control.
The attention of others isn’t of course and if you are to make a success of your money earning activities, you will need to find a way of attracting and holding the attention of those you seek to sell to. If they are all switched on to this problem then you are going to have to do something special.
To conserve my own attention I try to create before I consume each day and when it comes to social media I just don’t spend any significant amount of time doing it. Yes, there is a Restless Peasant Twitter feed, but it’s automated to tweet additions to this blog and that’s about it. I don’t have a Facebook account; yes it’s possible and legal not to ;-).
The most valuable attention conserving strategy after that is habit forming, especially the habit of making quiet time and physical space for creating new assets and spreading the word about these. Other habits I’ve found hugely valuable are the ones I call Kitchen Table-ing and Knappetting.
If you have something to say and/or sell you can go one of two ways. You can change your mind, products and target audience once a week and continually shout look at me, like me on Facebook, please Retweet this, pass on this chain letter or you’ll be unlucky!!…or:
…you can use your own life experience and lifestyle to build a series of assets that become dripping roasts for you.
The almost mythical knowledge of assets and liabilities is passed on to the richest Capitalists in their wet nurse’s breast milk. As a result, they have always known how to make money. This is usually at the expense of the peasants. All you have to do is acquire this same knowledge and the skills to create assets of your own and skip the bit where you exploit others. Instead, you can set yourself up to help others. It’s perfectly possible to be financially successful with a world view of Value to Others.
Thin Air Assets.
Working on the assumption that you don’t have a country estate to rent out for salmon fishing or deer stalking then you will probably need to create your assets out of thin air, or straight from your head out into the world where people can buy them and support your genius.
Assets are things you create once and get paid for over and over again. Thin Air Assets are simply assets that require no primer capital or seed money as the Capitalists call it. This was previously impossible for the common people. Assets were physical and expensive to set up and this combined with the denial of education, meant that peasants remained peasants. Education, when it was finally made available to the lower classes was cleverly hi-jacked to make sure that it was limited to teaching them how to tread the hamster wheel of doom for the benefit of their Capitalist masters.
But here we are in the 21st Century digital world and we’ve all been to school, seen through it and are using our physical and intellectual energy for our own ends. A classic example of a Thin Air Asset is an eBook. Physical books up until recently and still to some extent are the domain of those in the know, of manipulation of Amazon sales to get to the top of the New York Times best seller list and then be quickly remaindered on the super market shelves so that to make any real headway an author must turn herself into nothing but a hamster wheel treader who writes.
By taking a different approach and passing up the chance to hit the top of the NYT list you can build a valuable asset that gains attention and credibility over a longer period of time, but one which retains it’s value to you instead of being stacked beside the economy beans in Tesco next week.
I will soon be publishing such an asset myself and it will be called the Asset Building Kit.
The reason for that little excursion off to asset land was to illustrate a method of making money from what you already love doing by selling an asset you create from thin air and at low or no cost to people who eagerly await your insight and help every day.
By paying attention to creating quality assets that add real value to the lives of others and that will be thumbed and re-thumbed for nuggets of genius, you attract that individual’s attention for the long term. It’s like farming versus hunting.
When ancient tribal groups caught onto farming, they suddenly discovered that they could conserve energy and make life much more certain and even enjoyable at times…look where we’ve got to with that.
Building a tribe starts with getting one elated customer on board which means building an astonishingly valuable asset to sell to them in the first place and supplementing this with the most insane amount of personal support, turning mere customers into advocates for your work. Advocates tell others about you and if you do it right then each new customer becomes an advocate too, building your reach in an exponential way that traditional (expensive) marketing just can’t do.