Geek Job Guru: No Economic Nirvana

(I’ve decided to consolidate my career posts under one column name for easier location – Steve)

Often those of us involved in creative professions or wish to be (which is all of us, for many of us are creative about our professions) find that we wish that we didn’t have to deal with the entire economics issue. There’s something unpleasant to having inspiration and genuinely good ideas, from code to comics, to be sullied by crass commercialism. We’ve seen sell-outs, we’ve seen crap sold as gold and unoriginality sold as the greatest thing.

Economics can also be depressing and dehumanizing. Not to mention boring for most people. Many of us pro geeks don’t want to deal with this.

I’ve been considering this on and off for awhile, and when Serdar wrote on the desire for people to disappear into art it started codifying some of my thoughts about the desire to ‘escape’ economics. We wish a pure art, pure creativity, pure technology without the seemingly base, and at times manipulative economics concern.

This of course concerns me as I try to assist people with their careers which, because I speak to geeks, are often creative as noted. But after some consideration I’ve come to two conclusions:

We can’t avoid economics in our creative endeavors, and in fact, we shouldn’t.

Economics Is Always With Us

I’ve four reasons we progeeks should not only stop trying to run away from economics, but actually embrace it in our lives, our education, and perhaps even our creativity. They are:

Economics Is Unavoidable

Economics is always part of our lives – simply, we can’t avoid it. Wether it’s how we buy a new computer, what we have to pay for a degree, or how to make enough money to survive, it is part of our lives. You can no more avoid economics than you can avoid breathing (which is to say, not for long).

We may think we can avoid this part of an economic system or that part (and we may well be able to), but in the end you can’t avoid economics as that is simply about the exchanges among people of goods, services, and so forth. Economics is part of being part of human and being part of society. Unless you want to avoid humanity and society, then you’re stuck dealing with economics.

(Admittedly if you avoid humanity and society then your creativity is kind of for naught anyway)

Economics Is Part Of Life

As I noted economics is essentially unavoidable. Therefore since it is unavoidable, we might as well dive on in so we can at least manage our economic lives. Since we can’t get away from it, we can be good enough at it to survive and prosper.

If we accept economic realities, educate ourselves on money and such, look into the best ways to deal with our financial interests, we can have more fulfilling lives. This in turn can help us realize our creative potential and goals because we are economically suited for it. We are not sullying ourselves – we are surviving.

Good economic knowledge can ensure your creative endeavors survive and even thrive.

Economics Can Inspire And Educate

Since economics is part of lives and we might as well jump into it we should also realize it can be inspirational, educational, and actually assist our creative sides.

In the hard truth of economic and financial realities we understand the human condition. Those of us who write, draw, compose, and thus explore the human condition will be better at it if we understand economic issues. Characters will be more realistic, artistic interpretations more realistic, and our exploration of feelings will also be informed about issues of money and the like.

Economic realities also help us understand social and historical systems. To embrace (however reluctantly) good economic knowledge gives us a better idea of how the world runs. That in turn can lead to knowledge we can apply elsewhere; a more realistic fictional setting, better software because we understand real-life systems, etc. Considering how much of human life is touched by economic concern, understanding it means we’re simply better creators.

Economic Knowledge is Responsible

Because economic issues are unavoidable, part of life, and indeed informative it also means that when we learn economic principles and practices we can be more responsible. We can support our art, make better decisions in our voting, and manage our lives more effectively. This makes us better citizens, better friends, and better at surviving so our talents can benefit others.

I’m not saying you’ll enjoy it (unlike, say, me), but will be something that in short can make you a better person.


Having spelled out why we should embrace economic knowledge and participation as geeks and creative people, that still leaves one question open; why at times people get so adverse to learning more about economics. I’d like to focus not on typical reasons but one specific one that I think is often overlooked.

The usual reasons of course are that we find economics boring, mercenary, deceptive, and that it degrades our art. Thats understandable entirely. But the level of vitriol we see towards “sell-outs” and degradation of art can get pretty intense. It’s almost as if to many of us there’s a point where a person focused on mercantile pursuits becomes the very antithesis of a creative person.

(Well actually we’ve probably seen plenty of examples of that).

Two Kinds Of Obsessives

My theory is that that the Economic Obsessive is the same thing as the Artistic Obsessive, as lost in inhuman theory as the artistic person is lost in creativity. The Economic Obsessive is the antitheses of Creativity that causes us a lot of heartache and drives us away from being fully economic participants as they seem to sully the very idea of money, finance and the like.

We’ve met Artistic Obsessives. They’re the people lost in the world of their creativity. That’s their thing, at times unmoored from real-life concerns like making a living. Yes they know their subject, often they can be incredibly talented. They just don’t get the real world.

I think there are Economic Obsessives that are the same way. Lost in theories and abstractions, ideologues of ideas that are dead things stuffed and mounted, out of touch with human concerns and creativity. They’re ideologues acting as if they are informed, scientific and human experts but really they don’t know what they’re talking about.

You can probably name a few politicians, theorists, and government appointees that fit this description.

Of course the Economic Obsessives usually wield more power and influence as they have money (through luck, being paid to spout their jargon, or from the days they actually were productive). Lacking creative (or even at times human) understanding they often end up stomping on creative endeavors and the like. ┬áTheir “vision” is one of their own economic ideas and theories, disconnected from other concerns.

But in the end, Economic Obsessives are no different than Creative Obsessives. They just cause more damage if anything else and thus are easier to dislike as they’re more visible and effective. In turn, they are one of the reasons many of us sour on learning about and following financial concerns, for each ham-handed creativity-destroying action on their part leads us to unwisely wish for a heaven of pure, unsullied creativity.

That however is not the case. We’re all part of this world. If we, the creative and the progeeks and our like can take economic control of our lives, we can support our creativity, have better lives and have better careers, and be less at the mercy of other economic forces. That’s why it’s well worth gaining good knowledge of finance, budgeting, money, and so forth.

Don’t let the negatives drive you away from economic participation and awareness.

– Steven Savage