I’ve been speaking recently about a topic dear to my heart: the exciting, 21st careers that await our students.
But it’s easy to get caught up in what I call The Three Step Story:
- Get good grades
- Go to a good college
- Get a good job
I wrote about this in Success Isn’t A Straight Line. In short: good grades and good colleges don’t guarantee anything, let alone adult happiness.
Instead, help students figure out what:
- they’re good at,
- they like to do
- other people will pay them for.
Because, thanks to new technologies, it’s easier than ever to create your perfect career.
Singer/musician Kawehi makes a living creating a very unique style of music thanks to several new technologies. Check out this YouTube video:
Pretty unusual, right? No way she could get a record contract, though. Too weird! Well, the beauty of the 21st century is that she doesn’t need to!
Kawehi makes her living directly from fans. She uses Kickstarter to pre-fund albums. Every few months, she asks for $3,000 to make a recording. Her fans pay her up front, she records the songs, then delivers them.
Here are totals for three of her Kickstarter campaigns:
Now that’s a pretty good living!
Her fans return over and over to support her next creation. She’ll never be “Taylor Swift famous,” but she doesn’t that! She’s doing what she loves, is very good at, and people will pay her to do it.
Interestingly, that last $50k came from just 943 people. Not a huge group at all. Because there are so many people online, it’s easier to find that tiny percent willing to support you.
I’ve seen Kawehi twice in concert. It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else. I’ll go see her every chance I get. Plus, she hangs out in the lobby afterwards and chats with everyone! Taylor can’t do that!
I emailed her, asking for advice about starting a career like hers. She responded:
> “For me, the less money and promotion you have, the more unique you need to be.”
I agree. If Byrdseed were a plain “education” blog, I’d never have found an audience. Only by choosing a niche topic did I find friends excited about the same things as me. Let’s push students to pursue their unusual interests. They should become experts of the obscure!
Before we move on, check out how Kawehi’s craft has improved.
Ben is a business/technology writer. He doesn’t write for a newspaper, magazine, or even a website. His work arrives via email, four times a week. It’s like getting a column directly to your inbox!
He charges $10 a month to get those emails.
Think about how many $10 subscribers you’d need to match your salary. At $52,000, the median US income, that’s just 433 people to find.
Ben’s well over that. Within 6 months he had over 1,000 subscribers.
That’s a darn good living for someone who gets to work from home and go deep into a topic that he loves, in a way that his audience loves.
Ben emailed me back too, citing “initiative” and an ability to “self-teach” as keys to success. I know our students go home, take the initiative, and teach themselves skills every day. Let’s help them go even further.
And get this: Ben often mentions how he’s struggled when forced to work with others. He points out how great it is that he gets to work alone now! His weaknesses turn into strengths.
How many of our gifted kids will soar once we stop trying to force them to work in ways that just don’t fit their personalities?
Grey has built an audience of over 2 million subscribers through short videos explaining unusual topics that interest him. Here’s an example:
Who would have thought a video about the US/Canadian border could rack up 7 million views? The more unique the interest, the easier it is to find an audience.
Grey makes money through Patreon. His audience agrees to pay him every time he puts a new video online. It’s an automatic, recurring donation. Here’s Grey’s Patreon. 6,000 subscribers pay him $15,000 every time he publishes a video (about once every 6 weeks).
- That’s a lot of money.
- But it’s not a huge number of people compared to Taylor Swift.
- The average amount is just $2.50.
Again, the more unqiue CGP Grey is, the more likely people are to fall in love with his work and voluntarily support him so he can keep creating.
Grey’s former job: high school physics teacher.
Meta Analysis: Byrdseed!
There are hundreds of examples of people making strange livings online, building excited audiences by doing what they’re great at.
Since 2014, I’ve supported my wife and myself solely through Byrdseed. I’m a one-person operation dedicated to a very specific topic. That uniqueness makes it easier to find a dedicated audience.
Thanks to recent technology I can reach 20k people per month through email, write articles for 40k monthly visitors, and deliver online video across the globe. I can accept credit cards online and in person without signing some horrible deal with a bank.
I’ll never retire a millionaire working in gifted education, but in the 21st century, I can make a career doing something very unusual – a job that simply couldn’t have existed a few years ago.
A Bright Future
I share these stories because our students need to hear them. Parents need to hear them. And teachers need to hear them. Creative, 21st century careers do not require that three step story. Let’s stop pushing good grades and good colleges as the path to success.
Instead lets look for that triple combination:
- something they’re good at
- something they love doing
- something people will pay them for
The more unique the pursuit, the easier it is to find something that fits all three.