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Chapter 7: Know Your Environment From the Inside Out – Connection (The 50th Law)

Curtis Jackson started dealing drugs when he was 12 years old. One day, after he was given drugs on consignment (he would be given drugs for free and would pay the supplier back a certain amount and pocket the rest), he had a hard time selling them to fiends.

Curtis didn’t do drugs himself. If he did, he would slip into a dangerous habit that would stop him from making money. But being clean came with a cost, it disconnected him from the fiends. With excess drugs and no money, he had to sell them at a discount to pay back his supplier. It was a close call that almost forced him to steal, had his discounts not worked.

Later Curtis would move closer to the fiends, using samples on test groups, and getting instant feedback. That way he figured out what worked and what didn’t before releasing product into the market. When Curtis Jackson moved into the music business and became 50 Cent, he faced the same problem as he did in the streets. After becoming famous, he was isolated from his fans, he lost touch with the streets, and this made him feel uncomfortable.

Other artists were content in living in their celebrity bubble and allowing their companies the freedom to decide what the people wanted, but 50 Cent wanted to move closer to the streets. And he did, by building a website and connecting with his fans directly. He tested music samples and collected instant feedback, which translated to better reviews and more sales.

Artists and creators live in their own minds too often – they are removed from the world around them and disconnected from society. This allows them to think differently and originally, but it also makes them less accessible and understandable.

Just as how academics are disconnected from a broad base of people by siphoning themselves into a small world where their lives consist of obscure discussions with fellow researchers about topics few people care about, many artists do the same.  

Academics are protected from this vulnerability because they are paid not for the popular appeal of their work, but its value in the opinion of other academics. If you are an entrepreneur or an artist, you cannot afford to be like the academic, far removed from the real world. You must keep an ear close to the streets, and seek feedback, to understand what is really going on. The artists and entrepreneurs that have done that have seen a lot more success than those who haven’t.

One of the reasons that creators feel tempted to isolate themselves from public opinion is fear. They are afraid of criticism; they want to protect their egos. So it is a choice that often needs to be made, between comfort and realism – and the few that choose the latter are invariably rewarded.

FEW PEOPLE HAVE THE WISDOM TO PREFER THE CRITICISM THEM GOOD, TO THE PRAISE THAT DECEIVES THEM.

– François de La Rochefoucauld

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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