Thursday, February 04, 2010

On Art, Art investing and the worst book I read in ages !

If Seth Godin were right, this is how you write best-selling non-fiction.

First, try to understand and define the zeitgeist of the times. Channel the anger of the audience to motivate them to listen to you. Seth successfully does this and taps into the anger of Americans on outsourced jobs and the mismatch between what higher education promised versus what it actually delivered.

Second, prepare a set of qualities that would be universally and helpful in one's working career. Stuff like having talent, being engaged and going the extra mile for the customer.

Third, create a new lexicon for the reader and keep hitting them until it sinks in. Everything that is good, productive and useful is redefined as Art. Following a process is not art. People who follow process are bound to lose their jobs to India. Only someone who turns his work into a form of art can then join the hallowed ranks of the Linchpins - those who add so much value that they can't be fired from their jobs.

Finally, keep the empirical support of your ideas to a minimum but occasionally pepper your chapters with street-wise advice, nothing substantial because otherwise, someone may come around to falsify it.

The last time I checked, Linch Pin racked up 5 stars from amazon from 120+ reviews. It was a good score. Better than my personal favourites authors Daniel Pink and Tim Ferriss.

This is one book I love to hate. The insight and some actionable ideas are kept to a minimum, instead Seth spends a lot of time telling the readers how much he understands them. One way by appealing to the lowest common denominator if you are Ivy league educated is to keep telling these guys how the education system has failed them. I doubt the system failed Seth. He correctly identified that schools have only two purposes :

a) Teach people to solve interesting problems.
b) Teach people to Lead.

Someone this smart should know that schools are there to socialise people into productive citizens, most folks go to school to prepare for the industry. To make that happen a lot of tradeoffs are made, some rote learning will have to take place and some people will have to take a cut in self-esteem.

Another angle which Seth has taken which irks me is that it patronises right-brained people. I think all societies these days deal creative types a fairly cruel hand. Hence traits which are traditional strengths like analytical skills and the ability to grasp language is carefully packaged as Art to appeal to these people. This, I suppose, gives the open-minded non-conscientious types hope that things can get better. ( We know that statistically if you are not conscientious, things tend to get worse. Being open-minded just makes your destruction occur must faster. )

One of my cards I play when people rail against a technological savvy and analytically centered world is that statistical tools have even cast light on the fine arts. In Skate's book on Art Investment, the best artworks tend to occur when an artist is in his 30s-40s, the most expensive art tend to be landscape followed by abstract followed by female nudes. No one gives a damn about male nudes, BTW.

In this illuminating book, two key factors determine the value of a piece of art. Provenance is discount rate that is determined by probability that the art is fake, has export restrictions or may be stolen good. The other factor is simply an irrational factor, yes, is there a greater fool who is willing to pay for this piece of art.

To most people, labelling the best skills in the corporate world Art gives them warm fuzzy feeling of being treated as a human being and not just like a cog in the machine. i wish them all the best.

After all, would'nt engineers be simply poets with better employment opportunities?
If we can accept that, then Poets are engineers who can't count.



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