Joe Rogan creates so many podcasts, I miss most of them. That is to credit his prolific nature, not to discredit him as overexposed – I’m a fan of many of the guests he attracts.
In one episode, replying to a question about his decision to move to Austin, Texas as a response to changing tax laws (and other things) in Los Angeles, he says that seeing opportunities and grabbing them before anyone else can isn’t what occurs to him.
“That’s famine thinking,” he mentions in passing, “where there’s not enough, and you’ve gotta be the first in line or you won’t survive. I’m a feast thinker. There’s enough room for everyone, always enough to go around.”
He stood up not only for the amusement of audiences at the Comedy Store, but also for the rights of comedians working there while its reputation was in the ditch, and all during an underground culture of stolen routines, or of envying the great stand-up sets delivered by others, and the TV appearances given to them. He’s regarded as one of the key people who helped turn his industry around in the USA.
The one thing he can guarantee to be able to market well is himself. Other comedians, podcasters, and commentators aren’t in direct competition with him for a seat at the table, as they can’t be like him, and he can’t be like them. They’re people with whom he can freely share a common stock of ideas, opportunities, concerns, the spoils of well-directed effort, and friendship. This makes everyone’s individual wheelhouse sturdier, and nobody loses.
Famine thinkers believe there are hardly any opportunities, resources, recognition or rewards. When a lone walker starts dropping crumbs of bread on the ground near a group of hungry ducks in the park, the ducks all do exactly the same thing at the same time – run like the clappers towards the breadcrumb dispenser.
Famine thinkers can be desperate, and desperate is predictable. This can lead to a major problem for those finding themselves in a poorly-perceived industry.
They are led by the hand, by those who rubber-stamp this industry with perpetual rejection and disregard, into pricing themselves or their services, predictably, as a commodity, rather than as something uniquely theirs.
So predictable, it’s used as a tool by this kind of buyer. A famine thinker is always in competition with the next kiosk along, and the cheapest “wins”. The only winner (and this still depends on the viewing angle) is the person who said “no thanks, I found someone else who can do it for less,” only ever thinking about what they’ve purchased, not from whom.
I’ve seen countless people price their services too low. For example, in commissions-based art, an A4 commission for £65 will be chopped down markedly further once materials, equipment, packaging, postage, etc have been considered. If you’re doing it for the love of it, and a little extra pocket money, good for you, but as I’ve chatted to more and more of you, it seems more likely that it’s your dream job, isn’t it?
“Maybe one day I’ll go full-time.” Not without a strong upswing in your prices. The above just isn’t sustainable, and you’ll always attract the customer who sees very little value in you as a person.
I don’t judge. I was in this boat for the longest time. But as Bonny Snowdon told me, once you reach a price point that’s justified by your efforts, skills and experience, a different type of person altogether comes out of the woodwork. Someone who truly appreciates YOU, not just the thing you do, which in completely objective terms might be unforgiveably paralleled with one of those stock photo canvases you can find for £12.99.
Don’t ever drop prices in order to undercut those around you. For one thing, it’s damaging to your community of peers. Others can’t possess the unique qualities you have, and vice versa. Leave the idea of direct competition to industries selling commodities. You’re not jostling with anyone else for business and sales, and all those who do so are destined to be valued less than they should be.
Instead, keep offering clients more value. Be it more options, advice over the phone, personalised extras, top-shelf packaging, follow-up emails, aftercare, or simply a thorough breakdown in advance of everything they can expect from you, it adds value to your service.
If you’re proud of your work, what’s that really costing you, in contrast with the long-term costs of pricing lower (which are: having to churn through as much business as possible, forcing yourself to haphazardly do “just enough” each time)? You’re also showing people more about who you are as you go. Make your service memorably and undeniably unique.
Pricing as a commodity isn’t the only issue with famine thinking. The offer of help from a feast thinker may arouse irrational caution within a famine thinker, who ends up rejecting the help altogether.
It may also have led to the systemic imbalance in some juried art competitions (and I hasten to add, many contests follow the ethical route of rotating their panel of independent jurors). Instead of recounting my own limited experience, much of which has been extremely rewarding, I’ll point to an enlightening post by Swarez, who explains part of the problem in a more incisive and acerbic way than I ever could. I’ve landed on this article two or three times, and most of it really resonates.
As I’ve said in the past, it’s a mistake to only respond to existing opportunities rather than create them yourself; an approach which, en masse, funnels famine thinkers towards the same bottleneck, with very few favoured ducks grabbing a chunk of bread. Beyond the bottleneck, perhaps the vague new landmark status you achieve in being shortlisted for an event was worth all the previous rejection, but the nice thick wedge of entry fees taken from everyone who was turned away and enjoyed only by the few is what keeps the scales tipped heavily one way. I can fully understand Swarez’ disdain.
Which opportunities are you creating for yourself, and maybe even for others in the same boat as you?
I’ll not wax on about my weekly Instagram stories promoting the work of other people (frig, I think I just did), as they involve very little thought. I’m really aiming to help people in a more meaningful way this year in addition.
It’s an attitude which could risk creating a “bubble” of favoured people if I approach it wrongly, which would never be my intention. I don’t want to only reward people directly, just because they’re helpful in return in some way. I want my content, advice and promotion of others to continue completely free of strings, as it has been so far.
All to raise the collective output, divert as many of us as possible away from pricing ourselves out of a living, and break the cycle of how many people in my position have been conditioned to see themselves by their start-up experiences. It’s this commutative, furrowing, relentless and recursive conditioning between industry and market that keeps public perception low, and the onus is on the industry itself to change, by collectively defending and inoculating itself against this conditioning. Lofty ambitions!
Regardless, in the spirit of “feast thinking”, short term, I’ll at least get that grid tutorial uploaded very soon (any of you who’ve kept reminding me did right! I’ve just been a touch pressed for time, in a good way). I also often thinking of ways to be of genuine help, stretching beyond the very easy “shout-out”.
Sounds vague at the moment, doesn’t it. “Nice thought, Flembo.” This is where I might need your help. I can comfortably commit to one extensive blog post per month, and if anything crops up in between, I’ll be sure to write about it. Please submit your topics if you find my blogs of any value! I’ll see what can be done re instructional videos, marketing advice, or whatever else it might be.
A little about me: I never achieved a grade lower than “A” (in any subject) at school. I have a 1st class honours degree in mathematics. I used to think I achieved favourable academic results because I was smart, but I’ve always been a bit of a shut-in, with varying degrees of severity. The older I become, the more sure I am that this was just fertile ground for studying more, and that anyone with apparently “lesser” achievements simply grew up healthily apportioning time to socialising, learning how to conduct themselves around others and speaking up for themselves.
Merit was everything at our school, with an entrance exam to set to tone early, and one thing our teachers didn’t impress upon us too often was the importance of…forgetting about your work and socialising!
These days, I look back and think this counted a damn sight more than I’d ever bargained for at that age, and takes a lifetime to work on if you let it pass you by; speaking up for yourself, saying what’s on your mind, asking for what you want.
I’m still working on it. Even now, I tend to keep my mouth shut at key moments, have always played a painfully uneasy role at interview or during speeches, find asking for help (or anything, for that matter) pretty difficult, and remain a little detached from my community hub and the opportunities therein.
So, if feast thinking is for all of us to enjoy, then essential to my lifelong undoing of bad habits is to admit I need people’s help quite often, ask for it, and perhaps unlock a bunch of doors for myself in the process.
If you’re a fellow artist, a customer, or a complete stranger, whichever side of the ball you’re on, don’t ever be afraid to ask me anything directly. Whatever my experience is worth, my intention is hopefully worth just as much, if not more 🙂
Further thoughts on this subject in this illuminating article by Gerard Dawson.