want to play a game?

sketchy weather notecards

The zillion sum game is a game where not only does every player win, but as many people as humanly possible who aren’t even playing the game win.
John T Unger courtesy of Jonathan Fields

Not too long ago, Kristen Walker – the smart lady behind the creative tithing post – asked me if I would consider writing a post on what it would look like if everyone engaged this mindful spending, buy indie philosophy I espouse here.

I’ve been considering the challenge ever since but still can’t narrow down the details as I would like. But recently I had the opportunity to ponder this idea of the zillion sum game as Unger describes above. I think it fits perfectly. The zillion sum game allows for a gentle treatment of the movement (no hard line guilt here) while preserving it as revolutionary.

What we’re trying to create with this new arts & crafts movement is a powerful network that lifts each of us up towards success instead of a loose community of competitors gasping for air. It’s an economic model that requires that we all support each other for any individual to find success.

who are the winners?

Etsy – as a corporation – is a perfect example of the zillion sum game. Etsy brings in $15-20 million per year – a legitimately profitable company despite the dismal business environment. The website receives millions of unique visitors per month. Etsy is bringing in big investors – $31.6 million. It’s valued at $100 million. The company, as a whole, is a win.

where are the losers?

But look around… where are the losers? There are 400,000 crafters, artists, and other shop owners with an opportunity to start a business with pocket change. There are shoppers who have access to merchandise they’ve never had access to before – buying $180+ million of goods last year, who also get to support independent business owners directly by buying beautiful things with which to fill their world. Then there are all the peripheral businesses – like mine – that exist because of the movement that Etsy has galvanized.

The zillion sum game isn’t just about big corporations. We can use it to teach us how to be better entrepreneurs, artists, instructors, consumers, and employees. Our success need not come at the expense of others. We don’t have to make other lose just to win.

Our success as creative people is dependent on the success of the reset happening in the world economy. We are dependent on the success of our network and our community.

We have an obligation to ourselves to support others, lift them up, cheer them on.
We have an obligation to our own success to bring success to others. More than being a cog in the machine, we are each an integral component of a creative movement. Concentrating on the unique perspective we bring to this game will help us see others for what they truly are: not competitors but allies.

{ mini weather notecards by annarubyking }

10 thoughts on “want to play a game?

  1. Hear hear Tara! As someone with my own growing handmade business – and a growing handmade design blog – I wholeheartedly support this philosophy.

    Sure, I want to sell my own stuff. But I’m even *more* passionate about lifting up and advocating for the whole handmade movement – because it is just so many levels of awesome and I love the people who are a part of it.

  2. Great post Tara! This is something that I have believed in for a very long time.

    I would love to have my own stuff sell but I rejoice in other handmade goods being purchased too. Slowly but surely the people we introduce to this community will begin to see not only the products that they are buying but the love and care that was put into them when they were being made and that’s an amazing thing for people to realise and I love being a part of it.

  3. The best way to help ourselves and others is to create or join a movement. That way, helping and supporting is something that comes naturally because we are surrounded with people who understand us and who we have so much in common with. Then supporting just goes hand in hand with what we do every day and isn’t some separate action. So, of course, as a community we could never be a competition to one another, because we are all in it together.

  4. “What we’re trying to create with this new arts & crafts movement is a powerful network that lifts each of us up towards success instead of a loose community of competitors gasping for air.”

    Yes, yes, yes!!! The funny thing is that I didn’t realize how impactful buying handmade was until I started to entertain ideas of selling my own creative work. Each new creative/handmade/vintage seller is someone who is getting an education in how personally impactful those purchases are. So, rather than competition, many of us are going to also be your best new customers, because we *get* it now :)

    Pricing for instance. Instead of balking, I get it, and I’m happy to pay it.

    One of the striking things I’ve noticed about this movement and this new economy is how very pro-female it seems. When us gals started getting all liberated and working outside of the home and stuff, we essentially had to mold ourselves into a man’s working world. And since we felt honored just to be there and we needed to prove ourselves, we didn’t feel like we could make many demands of the male dominated working world – in fact, to do so might mean we’d be banished back to the kitchen.

    It seems like selling handmade online is a way in which women in droves are taking back their power – the power to be financially secure AND be a mom who is available to her kids AND work at the times of day that work best for her AND be touchy-feely AND a strong and competent business woman AND creative AND take time off when needed AND work like hell when that is needed.

    Lots of food for thought here. Thanks for the post, and I am looking forward the post about what this new economy might look like in detail if a huge critical mass of people started to embrace buying more and more of their purchases through it, rather than the old “made in China” big-box model (I’m not judging it btw, I am part of the problem as a modern day consumer and hoping it is just one step in our consumption evolution). A huge part of me thinks that this new economy would be one in which females have a lot more control over their working situations, children are a lot happier/healthier, and people enjoy much better quality of lives, maybe with less stuff, but a lot more quality – quality time, quality purchases, quality work, and quality connections. I am not talking utopia here, just progress and evolution.


  5. Lovely post Tara! When Karen and I started our pattern company one of the most important topics we discussed was “sharing”. We empathize with the home seamster who creates children’s clothing to sell at markets, online and otherwise. That is why we decided to “share” our patterns and allow the home seamster to create with our patterns in their home and then sell the finished garment in their online shop or at markets. We respect the larger companies descions not to allow this type of sharing but for us it was our chance to give back to the awesome community that has been to supportive of us.

  6. Thanks for this post, Tara! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’ve chosen to surround myself with people like you and Danielle LaPorte and Chris G. — all who preach messages of abundance.

    I think this message applies across the board, just as you say. When I started my blog, I worried a lot about intruding in a space that was crowded and wondered what I could contribute that was new and fresh. This is good — no one likes a copycat. But I also limited myself more than necessary, because I was so worried about established voices thinking that I was trying to capitalize on the success that they really paved the way for. Only lately have I seen how ridiculous this is.

    As you say, we are allies. Our voices together are part of what I truly believe to be a revolution.

  7. Another great post Tara! I have been thinking about this a lot since reading the Jonathan Fields post, and then hearing Chris talk about it at the book signing. In the past couple of years I have had a few unpleasant fallout’s with other artists online that see this as a competition, which I never have. It was really disheartening to me to be seen as a threat when I was just trying to share ideas. Fortunately I let those people go and am now, like Brigitte, choosing to surround myself with those preaching abundance. I am new to blogging and selling online, and in a financially more desperate place than I’d choose, but I still feel that supporting my fellow artists will help rather than hinder my success. I attended an art exhibit last year in Philadelphia (Cezanne and Beyond) that focused a lot on the “salon”. Salon as a gathering of artists to share and discuss new ideas and trends in art. They were not competing but challenging each other. I see what we are doing as the computer age salon. By sharing ideas and supporting each other we can only grow, and the pie will grow to accommodate us.

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