Why You Should Create For Yourself, Not For Anyone Else
Talib Kweli Greene wrote an article recently on Medium called In Defense of Ms. Hill. The article is, as the title suggests, about Lauryn Hill, who first rose to fame with The Fugees, and specifically about what rights and expectations we can have of her as as an artist.
It's a response to another article that denigrated her for her attitude/current approach to her art - that is, whether she performed or not, whether she made music like she had in the past, whether she should reinterpret old songs that everyone knew and loved and whether she should even play any music other than the songs that made her famous.
Needless to say, Talib Kweli suggests she can do what she wants. While I don't agree with everything that was written in both articles, I was struck by the following assertion:
Artists make art for themselves. Art is an honest expression. Artists who pander to their fans by trying to make music “for” their fans make empty, transparent art. The true fan does not want you to make music for them, they want you to make music for you, because that’s the whole reason they fell in love with you in the first place.
There's a lot of truth in those words and it applies no matter what you do in life. Certainly we understand its application when you're an artist, but I'm more intrigued by its application when you're an entrepreneur, or someone who is building a product or a business in any commercial context.
So often we are beholden to what we think the customer wants and, yes that is important. But what moves markets more, what changes the game in any space, is when the creator takes a step outside of the norm and does something that isn't intuitively obvious.
When that person has such a deep understanding of his or her market, such that they see patterns in where the market is going, where needs are evolving to, that they create something that no one else would have seen. That no research could have predicted. They take a risk.
That's what the customer really wants, even if they don't know they want it beforehand.
It made me wonder if that's how Steve Jobs thought. He didn't care for the incremental, he cared about the revolutionary. He cared about changing things fundamentally. He did the unconventional. In so many ways, he was more than a businessman, he was an artist.
And I wonder if that's how we should all be thinking when it comes to commerce.
Certainly, it requires a particular mindset, a courage and an ability to look past conventions about year over year growth targets. But it's also freeing in many ways.
Free to be able to do what needs to be done. To build what should be built. To create some real art.
Isn't that what we all want?