Look Homeward, Worker


The stuff of dreams

The movie, Field of Dreams (1989, Kevin Costner), is an entrepreneur’s story. “If you build it they will come” is still a catch phrase that speaks to an entrepreneur’s resolve. In the movie, a visionary person risks acting on a very personal belief. It won’t leave him alone. So he endures hardship, financial failure, ridicule and the fruitless passing of time before his dream comes true.

It is ingrained in corporate-trained entrepreneurs that profit is the only reason to undertake an enterprise. Some believe investors buy great ideas, unproven. But people with money don’t invest in original ideas unless they see a way to get a return on their investment (ROI), and the quicker the better. Investors pick up an idea after the owner has invested her or his own time and money to prove its functional value, and that people will pay for that value.

The artist part is the hardest part

Making money is a smaller consideration when you’re creating. Artists intuitively know this. They create as a way of life, heart to hand. Only when admirers increase around them do they think of selling their dearest work. When an artist is ready to take her work to the public, she begins to think like an entrepreneur.

Unlike artists who are always personally invested in their creations, when an entrepreneur brings a product to the public, it becomes a thing to be used. Costs of resources and labor are considered in looking toward profit. But if an entrepreneur also believes in the good his product brings to the world, he is more like the artist.

The silver lining of economic depression and unemployment is that we rediscovered primal ways of working. Work and life run together when you spend time at home. In the trimming of the workforce, many of us found ourselves working from home, doing whatever we could to survive.

The migration to the home office

When corporate workers started working from home, it was a natural follow for us to create businesses at home. The familiar environment of an office helps us continue to work as we did in an office job. Displaced workers are going further, creating smaller versions of their corporate parents, either in the home or in rented office space. But working on our own is not like showing up for an employer.

Few individuals or families can support the additional expenses of a formal office indefinitely. We invested in the startup to conform to the familiar image of business, but customers didn’t walk into our place of business like we expected. We slowly realized that the corporate system is built on top of stuff we don’t have: lots of money, lots of workers and a lot of years.  Loss is part of the business system, over the long term, but in the beginning, our hopes are only for success.

Necessity and invention

What we do have that the corporations don’t have is ingenuity and flexibility. In an era where the same tools for innovation are available to the individual, discovery and creativity abound. The fires of innovation burn, as always, in a climate of necessity. We started keeping our ideas instead of turning them over to the corporate environment.

Even though we still thought jobs were the answer, unemployment persisted and options steadily diminished. Our knowledge and work skills became tools for us, not services for someone else. We labored with mind and body, motivated by necessity, and our old employee ways became new ways of working – motivated by ownership.

For independent workers, watching wins on the Internet triggered a kind of gold fever. We bought domain names and Web sites (“picks and shovels”) and set out with our wits to stake a claim. We followed behind those who “hit a gold vein” on the Internet. We expected fast returns with the investment of our time and ingenuity. It didn’t happen.

Turning the Century

In this great cultural shift, we are finding places for the work we created for ourselves – subcultures where we can work in new ways that become comfortable and familiar. In various forms, we are coming up with ways that make our lives better. And, if something makes our lives better, why not bring it to the world?

We are beginning to believe in ourselves. 

We have come to the end of the idea that profit is the sole reason for business. There is an army of people coming into the economy, busy at work with social and environmental responsibility. We are conscious human benefactors, bringing either goods with service or services with goods.

The heart and work of creativity

Artists and entrepreneurs are problem solvers. We keep inventing a better way; getting closer to the ideal we imagine. We have a natural desire to work because we’re solving problems we care about, personally. We sacrifice for what we imagine will improve the world, and we love the work required to achieve that purpose.

Regardless of the economy, inspired and creative workers still work, pouring time and resources into their dreams. Be inspired. Own your time and do the work your ideas demand.

When you recognize that having a dream energizes you for life’s long haul, you can explore that space like an artist. Find out what’s real about your dream. Get the information you need, tinker with possibilities and test feasibility like an entrepreneur. Find the things that work and let go of the things that don’t. Use the money you have wisely.

Home is a natural environment to discover the things that matter only to you. Make space there to exercise private intellectual freedom. Follow the way of working that pays you back in energy and a self-renewing desire to work. Create a new workflow system that suits you and settle in for the long haul. Do everything you can to get support, inside and outside of the home.
Over time the you blends with your work as you own your time and productivity. Life will hand you what you need, to do what you are meant to do.


Elizabeth Diane Martin is a business development philosopher and theorist, working with people who are developing an occupational structure around their personal talents and passions. With a background in computers and small business development, Elizabeth is also a professional creative writer and emerging artist. She offers material for personal growth, especially for creative people working solo, representing themselves on the Internet.

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