The Code of the Entrepreneur

I’m borrowing (again) from my entrepreneurship guru, Dan Sullivan. Dan identifies a statement that every entrepreneur makes to him or herself—whether she does this consciously or not. It’s the entrepreneur’s code, the independent businessperson’s declaration of principle:

I will expect no remuneration until I have created value for someone else.

Let me repeat that:

I will expect no remuneration until I have created value for someone else.

Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach

“Create value” is a hard-boiled business term. There’s no art to it. No romance. But you and I as writers and dancers and actors and photographers live exactly by that dynamic—whether we realize it or not.

We write a book. It’s got to find readers. It’s got to sell. It has to “create value” for the person who lays out hard American greenbacks for the privilege of scanning through its pages. Otherwise, we’re not artists, we’re artistes. We’re living in a dream world.

We must remember always that art is a transaction. The viewer or reader or gallery-goer brings to the table something precious—her time and her attention. In return, you and I must deliver something—an image, a song, a story—worthy of our reader or viewer’s faith and expenditure.

Why do I cite this code? I do it to get our feet planted firmly on the ground. So that you and I as musicians and filmmakers and videogame designers can operate in the world as it really exists—and not in some “artistic” fantasy.

I will expect no remuneration until I have created value for someone else.

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

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NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

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TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

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37 Comments

  1. Tolis Alexopoulos on June 15, 2022 at 4:07 am

    Thank you very much dear Steve,

    having just surpassed the covid infection, after a week of not working on the book I can tell how easily the stress of bringing value to the other people so that I can accept money for living accumulates. Unfortunately and fortunately, the truth of the professional world seems really hard-core: If we don’t bring something that matters to someone, then we will not get something that matters to us. It is fair, it follows the law of nature, but I also think it is hard for those who can’t do that, who can’t bring value to others. All my life until my 25’s I was one of them, that’s why I sympathize with them so much too. I wasn’t bad, not evil, only passionate and not following the norm. I (most of us) have seen how it is when you live on the other side, and to have the need to have value because of your very existence, but being valueless for the eyes of others and thus ignored or even worse misbehaved by them.

    I want to consider people as having an inherent value. I really wish that the day comes that we will all have the basics we need (food, shelter, love, friends, free time, access to knowledge, all good things like cars, tickets to all the world and to all hotels and beautiful places and homes, free entrance to the best restaurants, tickets to the best doctors etc.) without having to fight for each of these all day and night. I don’t think we will become soft or self-indulgent although that seems very strong a fear. It is so damn hard to fight on all directions at once, and I have heard of (even seen some in my family) many specialized people who really survive well but don’t have a clue when it comes to the other aspects of life like friends, fun, family time (loads of it), ways to deal with other people lovingly and effectively or cure them, ballance-harmony of living, personal time etc. I can’t even handle all that for my self, and I only work for those 4-hours-on-the-chair a day which takes approximately 5-7 hours a day.

    What I wonder is if there can be found a common ground between being the best (transforming the meaning of “the best” too) at our field/enterprise/work of art, but also be very balanced and happy on all other areas of life too, while at the same time doing something of value for the less lucky people (and animals) of the world and… having some substantial time for us? I mean, is that possible in a masculine world of Power? What can a man do if they do their best but it’s not enough because other specialists do double work each day while they tend their family (how unfair!), and only the best gets greatly rewarded in some fields while the rest only get the least?

    Can we be warriors indeed, but also have balance? And if we become like that, will we be able to do “more with less” like mr. Buckminster Fuller says at the book I just started reading, “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth”, or will we fail to reach our Purpose and in the end just fail to make it Life, seeing others claiming our dream lands?

    Strangely enough I cannot know at all, and if I don’t keep the engines going, I feel “all will be lost” at once, like Galandriel said.

    Can’t hope enough to live to that day that (wo)man with the advance of ultimate knowledge and technology will begin to enter the Utopia phase…

    Ah! Once more I try to excuse my not working. Back to work, Tolis! No more Sh*t 😉

    • Jackie on June 15, 2022 at 5:29 am

      Good morning, Tolis. You raise many valid points. It is hard to fight all fronts at once. I’m reading Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday (again). It is in stillness that everything begins to make semse. For most of my life, work was chop wood, carry water, chop wood, carry water. Life seemed insufferable at times, but for the stillness I found that came from chop wood, carry water.
      To support my family and art, I worked all manner of crappy jobs. I scrubbed toilets and floors on my hands and knees as others walked over me. The pay was shitty too. In all jobs, no matter what, I expected no remuneration until I created value for someone else.
      In art, this is easy to forget. We say that we create for ourselves, but this can’t be our only truth if we plan to share it. Art was a refuge from the toil of everyday life, a place of expression and beauty. But without offering value to others, art is empty.
      The Bhagavad Gita says, Work done for a reward is much lower than work done in the Yoga of wisdom. Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward. Work not for the reward; but never cease to do thy work. I hold head high with shoulders bent to whatever task that is set before me. No matter the reward, I give my best. From this perspective, we grow and reap reward. Wisdom or money? Both are accepted, but a little cash every now and then is sweet. 😁 Wishing all a good day.

      • Katie m. Berggren on June 15, 2022 at 7:31 pm

        thank you for sharing your perspective and experience, Jackie 🙂 Sincerely, Katie

      • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 16, 2022 at 1:18 am

        Thank you so much for the energizing words, Jackie! And I am sorry that you had to work on those hard jobs without the proper reward, ethical or monetal. Actually I would love so much to see people who do the hard stuff being really admired instead of being considered as the bottom of the professional pyramid (I do not like politics, I haven’t studied socialism or communism etc., I just try to tackle common sense).
        I have that Stillness is the Key up at the library, I think I bought it when I heard about the author here at our blog sometime, still haven’t read it yet 🙂
        Now here is a challenge: to work not for monetal rewards but for the wisdom? Or to work for money so that you stay grounded and don’t identify too much with your work of art, which will paralyse you? That’s a “million dollar” question!

        • Gwen Davis-Feldman on June 20, 2022 at 2:38 pm

          I was told once, if you need a reason, work to keep the electricity going.

      • Julie Merrick on June 16, 2022 at 7:00 am

        Thank you both for your comments. As a Holiday fan, (would love to hear a podcast between Ryan & Steven!) I look forward to his second virtue series book, Discipline is Destiny.

    • Katie m. Berggren on June 15, 2022 at 7:34 pm

      I see this too, Tolis, the problems with balance. And I’m glad you have recovered from Covid! Thank you for sharing. I have so much to learn.

      • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 16, 2022 at 1:29 am

        Thank you Katie! Oh yes we have so much to learn! Balance, the most difficult thing in our lives now, and forever. We must find that path to combine balance with excellence.

  2. Brian Nelson on June 15, 2022 at 6:57 am

    I think Tolis and Jackie strike at the heart of this code, and the struggle inherent with creation.

    I have been peeling back the layers of my race (unleashedatstadiumbowl.org) for the past decade–did a sound bath a few weeks ago (Tibetan Singing Bowls), and it was like a mystical experience–sacred geometry, visions, felt like astral projection at one point. I found why it matters to me. Without some long explanation, the most honest answer is this is how I worship and celebrate life with others.

    To answer Tolis’ question about why we can’t just love one another–I think the freeloader, the thug, the criminal has always been with us. Cain slayed Abel. We are genetically wired to be suspicious and wary of the freeloader. It is both naive and irresponsible to ignore this reality.

    One reason I believe collective suffering–whether that is from a natural disaster, or Basic Training/Boot Camp, wind sprints at the end of tryouts, double-days in August, or sitting around an AA table–is that we are finally stripped raw.

    When we lower our defenses (ego), we also drop our load-bearing vests which carry all of our hate-grenades, our spare ammunition, and our M4. We are both without armor and without weapons. Naked before the Gods.

    Then–and I think this gets to the core–we demonstrate the heroic values to each other. Courage. Effort. Perseverance. Humility. We are broadcasting trustworthiness to each other–and then we can feel the love for our fellow man. Maybe–maybe, with enough practice, and enough times seeing each other unmasked, vulnerable, and trustworthy we can leave our armor and weapons in the safe longer and longer.

    Maybe–this is also what Steve means by put your a$$ where your heart wants to be–maybe this is ‘right to your labor but not the fruits of your labor’–and maybe this is what we as consumers see as value. Maybe the value can only be created from this place. Because it is authentic. It is an offering from the deepest part of ourselves, unguarded and raw. It is seeped in our own sweat and blood.

    When we feel connected, deeply, we are safe. The existential terror of being is abated.

    Had another thought-leap of analogies/scripture. (beware of blasphemy from a rookie) If one mule can pull 6,000 lbs, and two mules can pull 18,000 lbs…where is the extra mule? What is that? Well, what if that is God. Christ says when 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, I am there amidst them. If he’s going to do that with mules, what does he do for us, created in God’s image?

    Back to Tolis and Jackie. Tolis’ comments about fighting on all fronts seems to me the eternal question, and Jackie’s answer is another way of saying transcendence. All of the battlefields are our own hero’s journey. It cannot be easy. It must be a struggle. Last analogy: If one helped a butterfly while struggling out of the cocoon, it would perish. The struggle to break out of the cocoon gives its wings the strength to spread open and fly.

    Back to the chores. Then hopefully to create some value for the world.
    bsn

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 16, 2022 at 1:55 am

      Thank you so much Brian!

      Your desire to be with other people is so obvious and intense in your words, and I would put my hand on fire that you are one of those who really love to be in communities and have the desire to share the heroic values or whatever they believe in with other human beings. I would parallel this state of mind for a strange reason to the journey towards the ancient greek ideal, the hero citizen, the community/democracy supporter.

      I think Plato said it best. How did he do that!?

      “He who does not govern himself is condemned to be ruled by others.”

      Yet the time comes when we will be free. I bet on it. As the comrade-gladiator of Maximus the colored man, said: “We will find them. But not yet. Not yet.”

  3. Lin Keeling on June 15, 2022 at 8:51 am

    I have been struggling all week with having let my pain and struggle leak out here last week. I didn’t even want to check in this morning but now I’m glad I did. Thank you Steve, Tolis, Jackie and Brian. Each day is such a challenge bur your words help me believe I can do this. It won’t be pretty but I will persevere. I started journaling again–had stopped because I thought it was a waste of time to keep ranting about the same things, but I see now I need to get it out. No one will read it (between my personal short hand and handwriting they couldn’t anyway) but it does help. Maybe I will learn to see the third mule some day, Brian. I found the strength to start work on my book again yesterday. I weeped when I opened the file. I had asked myself last week what I would regret not finishing if I died today and knew that as important as creating a new artwork is, this book is what I need to share with the world. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done but I’m going to do it,

    So, thank you all again for being here. Thank you Steve for making it possible and showing us the way.

    • Katie m. Berggren on June 15, 2022 at 7:41 pm

      Oh Lin, I know this feeling, too. Thinking about what we would regret if we died. Those type of thoughts got me through a rough stage in the book I just finished… imagining myself pulling out the half-finished book (it’s all art, not words) and showing it to my grandchild – saying “this is a book I was working on in my early 40s…” and the child saying “why didn’t you finish it? Can you still finish it?” and my reply: “no, it feels too late, the passion is gone…” heart-breaking!!!

      Scary is the process of creation and trust… BUT UGH – that visualization worked for me!! I put my butt where it needed to be and with additional nudging from The War Of Art and Steven’s blog posts, and the love and confidence of some really special people, I finished the book. And am now working on the second book in the series!!

      Imaging what we will regret is powerful… I’m so proud of you for moving forward with what you deep-down know you need to share with the world. Maybe you will share it with us when it is complete? 🙂

      Sincerely, Katie

      • Lin Keeling on June 15, 2022 at 10:21 pm

        Thanks, Katie, I’ll do that. Your work is lovely–congratulations on finishing your book! Mine is a how-to/why-to art book. It started out as juzt how-to but kept growing. Still a long way to go but at least I’m back on the path.

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 16, 2022 at 2:20 am

      Thank you so much Lin for expressing your self here, too! Well yes. From my experience, that force of field that comes out of your book, that Resistance, will be there all the time. You also felt it when you expressed yourself last week, it wouldn’t let you go back and check. What was it like? Counter to the common belief “When you create you feel like you are in heaven”, you will not feel the energy of the sun while creating etc., but you will feel the… Thirst of all that darkness around you, that is SO thirsty for your light, so thirsty for your Light, because it is so deprived of it by it’s nature. And it can only be cured-enlightened by you.

      So feeding the darkness with light (which may be another way to express what Resistance is, and why it feels so awful since on it’s thirst it drains our creative light but for a great cause, to enlighten itself) may be your real offer to the world. Maybe the answer is not to attack the powerful darkness face-to-face, but to feed it with light, feeling the emptiness inside every time you succeed on that. Reminds me a bit of the “No retreat, and no attack” belief of Gandhi.

      BUT… does this sound like being a hero?

      • Lin Keeling on June 16, 2022 at 6:14 am

        Thanks, Tolis. Beautiful words! While I was trying to figure my way out of that pit last week, a roadrunner visited our yard and I suddenly remembered the cartoon of Wile E Coyote and the Roadrunner. No matter what the Coyote did (also a mythical figure in Native American cultures aka the Trickster), the Roadrunner just side stepped it and kept going. So, I’m trying to keep that humorous image in my mind, sidestepping the Resistance as much as possible while staying on my path. Another way of feeding with light and keeping perspective with a sense of humor.

  4. Maureen Anderson on June 15, 2022 at 11:30 am

    Would it help people on their way to getting paid for their work to (temporarily, at least) broaden the definition of remuneration? Dilbert creator Scott Adams says it’s art if it inspires action — a purchase, an eMail, a change in behavior.

    I can live for weeks (metaphorically speaking) on a thank-you note from a reader. That’s not nothing!

    A leftover observation from last week’s comment bonanza about working out: I’ve been working out so much harder since then. Not sure why. Accountability to you guys, maybe?

    • Joe on June 15, 2022 at 1:36 pm

      Maureen, the group can take its remuneration now that it has created value (ie, “Maureen working out harder”). “Git some,” as the young warriors are known to say.

  5. Joe on June 15, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    This felt like a remuneration…

    We grew up spending two weeks each summer in a small Michigan community along the shores of the lake the Ojibwa called “Mishigami” (for “large water”). The family ties to this place go back generations.

    I’m in a chat group where members were discussing some of the damage from a recent storm. I thought about a piece I had published about ten years ago, a reflection on summers in this place, and shared it to the group. The piece wrapped up like this:

    *****
    “The days follow a theme, and often end with families making an evening pilgrimage down to the beach or to the top of a dune. They walk at leisure, as if strolling to church. At home, sunset is noticed in passing, if at all. Here, sundown is an event on which to reflect and to savor, like a Merlot or a Malbec rolled across the tongue.

    “Your brother says you can’t really describe the feeling of summer here in these dunes. You say you’re willing to give it a try.”

    *****
    One of the fellows commented: “Each paragraph poked at my heart. I’m such a sap at age 63 and had to wipe away happy tears while I read.”

    If there’s no money in it, THAT kind of response is remuneration enough.

    • Jackie on June 15, 2022 at 2:45 pm

      I love this Joe. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Maureen Anderson on June 15, 2022 at 2:54 pm

      That’s what I’m saying!

      • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 16, 2022 at 3:03 am

        Exactly that. We tend to count something from the tangible results (well that’s money). But what if we misjudge? I’m pretty sure we do, it’s just difficult to see. Thank you Maureen.

    • Brian Nelson on June 15, 2022 at 5:42 pm

      Not cash that will buy a cup of coffee–but who needs coffee after a comment like that?
      bsn

    • Katie m. Berggren on June 15, 2022 at 7:42 pm

      amazing – the act of touching another’s soul… so rewarding ♥

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 16, 2022 at 3:01 am

      Yes it is. And it is so much more than money. I wouldn’t even use the same word to keep it untouched! Thank you Joe.

  6. Anne Pellicciotto on June 15, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    This discussion is so thoughtful and heartfelt, I am inspired by all of you. Think you all debunked Steve’s post. Sorry, Steve. They are talking about a feminine driven ‘sacred economy.’ Beautiful.

    Art for art’s sake. And we cannot forget the vakue the act of creation brings to us, the creators.

    I will takeup my pen tmw with all this goodness in mind.

    • Lin Keeling on June 16, 2022 at 6:26 am

      I thought that too at first, Anne, but I realized that might not be what Steve was getting at. If you look back at the post, Steve said “value”. So interesting that some of us took that to mean money. Thinking about this thread over night, I realized value has many meanings. My work will never be commercial and I’m fine with that. I’m trying to put a different kind of energy into the world that helps nourish people living in dark times (including myself). I will never be wealthy but that’s OK. I’m fulfilled in other ways and I hope that my work does the same for others.

      That was scary to write; I’m trying to write that message into my book, but I freak out every time I approach it. In a post in Instagram recently, Steve had a video about the First Rule of Resistance, that “when Resistance is strongest it means you’re into something. It means what you are doing is important to the evolution of your soul.” Those words gave me the courage to take a deep breath and keep going.

  7. Lin Keeling on June 15, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    Hearing how people feel about your work can meqn so much. I sold a piece through my website last year and I wrote an emqil thqbking the womqn, rold her wh3n I was ahipping it, when shw could expect it. No response. Shipped it with a thank you note enclosed. It arrived. I waited. Crickets. I never heard a word, not even “it looks great in our dining room with the new paint” or “thanks, it made it here OK”. I’ve sold probably 2 dozen pieces over the years, donated some to charity and people have written to say they were so excited to have the winning bid (which was very cool), I get emails on my website about my work, this is the first time I’ve sold something so anonymously. While the money was welcome, the silence was deafening.

    And, Maureen, thanks for your compliment on Pacifica last week. It meant a lot. Thanks to you, too Jackie.

  8. Octordle on June 15, 2022 at 11:46 pm

    Your article is awesome. It is exactly what I was looking for. I also want to recommend to everyone

  9. Brinda on June 16, 2022 at 2:33 am

    Thanks Steve, for reaffirming my belief. 2 weeks ago, I refunded $x to a client as my article didn’t match their requirements perfectly. No, the client didn’t ask. I just had to return because I felt like it. And to read the same statement that I say to myself and to my clients – That I’ll refund the fee if they’re not happy with the copy or content I provided. I’m loving your shop yet profound lessons on living the creator’s life.

  10. Kate Stanton on June 16, 2022 at 5:48 am

    “Otherwise, we’re not artists, we’re artistes. We’re living in a dream world.”
    Came for the Wednesday Wisdom truth bomb from Steve! Create Value–this week’s mantra.

    Thank you Steve and all commenters for the weekly inspiration. <3

  11. Rise on June 16, 2022 at 7:21 am

    Hardcore facts. Most artists refuse to accept this and pay the price. Great reminder for all of us that if there is no margin, there is no mission. That said, if you just keep your dayjob and work double what everyone else does, you can give the middle finger to the market and make the art that you need to make. It’s the path I have chosen, and I find it very rewarding, but it’s not for everyone.

  12. Bill D on June 18, 2022 at 6:36 am

    Steve –

    Greetings! And thank you, once again, for getting right to the heart of the matter. Business and art coexist , with value creation in the middle.

    All the best,
    Bill

  13. DrawString Tarp on June 24, 2022 at 2:48 am

    I really like your blog post very much.

  14. Jurgen Strack on June 24, 2022 at 4:14 am

    I have pasted it to my laptop.

    Happy value creating everyone!

    Thank you for sharing Steve and Dan 🙂

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