Gainfully Unemployed

March 1st, 2009

Five weeks ago I was layed off from my “day job” in IT. I took it well, “with quiet dignity and grace.” (No, not like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein.) But as soon as I was outside I practically strutted down the street. It was a transformation like Kevin Spacey at the end of The Usual Suspects. I actually whistled. For years I’ve struggled with feeling unfulfilled at work, and unsatisfied with the notion that I could have a job that pays the bills, and have my fulfilling life’s work in the evening and weekend. But I was wearing “golden handcuffs,” and I was too chicken to chuck it in favor of finding fulfillment during the weekdays as well.

 Note to my former boss: Boss, if you’re reading this, I’d probably still take my old job back if you offered it. Hey, I’m no dummy.

Karl Marx wrote in his Communist Manifesto that the proletariat sells their labor-power to the capitalists. The capitalists, owning the means of production, amass wealth. Marx called for a redistribution of that wealth.  In “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” Kiyosaki makes the same observation, but draws a different conclusion: He urges the reader to own the means of production themselves. This was not a call to exploit the workers, but to take charge of your own labor power.

Kiyosaki advised buying real estate, not factories. Personally, I don’t own the capital to purchase any more property than the one I already have mortgaged. Plus I don’t want to hassle with the high PITA (Pain In The Ass) factor of being a landlord. But in the hours and days (then weeks) after I was layed off, it occurred to me that Kiyosaki (and Marx) were right: my path to wealth, be it monetary or the wealth of fulfillment, was not to be found by finding another 9 to 5 job.

Kiyosaki advises his readers to invest more money than you can afford. This forces you to be creative with ways to generate more capital because if you don’t, you won’t eat. This is a little too scary for me, and a bit foolhardy considering my familial obligations. But the idea of becoming creative with ways to make money is intriguing. It’s not busting rocks in a quarry until the whistle blows, or sitting in a cube. And it’s probably not just ONE THING.

My first job out of college was working in the office of the president of a now defunct correspondence university. Students were asked to complete an exercise where they listed everything they were interested in and/or enjoyed doing. The next step was to combine two or more of these, even if the result was a bit absurd. For example, teaching underwater golf. The Wealthy Barber tells of a woman who loves both landscaping and painting, so she gains landscaping clients by painting what their property could look like landscaped. She sells them the painting, the cost of which can be applied towards her services as a landscaper.

I love photography, galleries and museums, music, fashion, travel, food. For me some combinations are selling my fine art/urban landscape photos in a gallery setting, AND selling music photos to magazines, AND photographing weddings, AND doing commissioned portraits, AND creating notecards, AND…. photographing restaurants in Berlin. Oooh, just thought of that one.

This is a lot of work, but it’s not hard work, because it is work I love.

This is the first blog I’ve written in a month. That’s partly because my previous post was so damned pretty. But it’s also because I’ve been really busy. Janelle Fendall Baglien, president of Studio Art Direct, wrote in her blog post Art of a recession, “Tough times may actually provide us our best opportunity to reach out to art customers with little or no competition because so many of our competitors are doing just the opposite of that in an attempt to save money.” She suggests ways to market during a recession, and also encourages the artist to develop  a new body of work. I didn’t really learn anything new from it, but it validated what I was already thinking: This is the time to get organized and move forward, not withdraw.

So I’m blogging again. And I completely redid the portfolio page of my website. I also went to Los Angeles two weeks ago to check out galleries, and I’m leaving for New York next week to do the same. And I’ve been taking photos. So basically it’s work, work, work. And I’m loving every minute of it.

Michael Singman-Aste
Postdiluvian Photo

2 responses to “Gainfully Unemployed”

  1. Tim says:

    That is kind of profound, in regard to the Art of a Recession. I guess it may be true to find a niche in these hard times. making money in this way, I suppose does not surprise me. Interesting blog, tim

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