Good Advice From A Friend

At dinner with old friends last night I described the progress of my adaptable and energizing simplified animation workshop.  My friend smiled as he spoke of the many good uses for it, the almost infinite applications, how many different people and settings who would love to pay for something so wonderful.  He was happy about how far my original idea had come, even as he was struck by the difficulty of my struggle to figure out how to make it a viable business.

I told him about Reggio Emilia (described in previous post) and the schools in NYC that follow its model.   A good fit, he agreed, and saw as stubborn folly, a clinging to misguided beliefs and political prejudice, that I’d even hesitate to work with them just because the parents paid $39,000 for their kids’ kindergarten tuition.

“I treat patients on welfare, and I can afford to, because I also treat patients with gold plated insurance.  You can’t work for the poor unless you sustain yourself somehow.  Take rich people’s money!  They’re the ones who have the money!  If they’ll pay you five times what the public school can afford, work at one rich school to be able to serve more poor schools.”   I heard his point and granted it, told him I’d think about it, but he could see I was not sold.  He was pained that I’d need to think about such a no-brainer.

“People become addicted to what they are used to, old patterns are very hard to change.  You have always struggled, you’re used to it, it’s a habit and you don’t want to go out of your comfort zone.  You need to look at the bigger picture, if your idea that you’ve worked on for years to bring to this point is to flourish you have to get out of that struggling mentality.”  Again I raised my eyebrows, nodded, though we both knew in some way he was talking to the pens in my shirt pocket.    

I raised something Sekhnet had mentioned the other day: people with connections and good business sense seeing the great potential of my workshop and promoting and selling it as their own invention.  Who, I thought, is likelier to steal my invention:  the art teachers at a posh school with unlimited resources and successful artist and business parents on the board or the overworked teachers’ aids at some of the slum schools I’ve struggled in, the schools I am targeting for this program?  The innovative private school would then get to take credit for the thing I’d created to showcase the heartbreaking creativity of children of the poor marked for failure, prison and early death.  Bird wins, one more time ladies and gentlemen.

“Justifying your habitual struggle, that’s all,” said my old friend.  He may have been entirely correct, although I think he also understood how much work I still have to do with marketing, packaging, promoting, fundraising, recruiting, social media and so on before I can claim to have created a business or program, rather than just having carried out an promising idea.

I don’t want to do this program for the children of the rich.  Call me a damn redneck, what can I say?

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