Creative's Workshop 2020

Silicon Valley

The hackiest hackers.

3. Professionals, Amateurs and Hacks

Dig deep to find the commitment necessary to become a working professional…

Are you willing (and able) to see what the hack would do and not do? Who are the hacks in your field, the ones who have given up what they stand for in order to pander to the market?

Can you see what the market wants in the short run and not bend to it and know the trade-off you’re making?

If you’re ready to be a professional, figure out what you stand for, and do it regularly, with consistency.

Those of you working as a professional, what would it look like if you took it up a notch?

And amateurs, what will you do to avoid the siren call of becoming a hack?

This is the work.

Prompt: In your field, who are the glorious amateurs, those that have brought their voice, unedited, to a vast and adoring public? And who are the successful professionals? What about the hacks? List one for each and tell us about them.

To get you started (from Seth):

In my experience, Yo-Yo Ma is a professional, navigating from one magical place to another, compounding his reputation, contributing and leading. Tommy Wiseau, the legendarily bad director, is an amateur, as is E.L. James, the author of the self-published and quite successful 50 Shades. On the other hand, John Locke 33 is a happy hack, selling millions of Kindle books and sharing his approach with others.

Consider this XY quadrant graph from Seth:

Screenshot 2020-01-10 09.03.47

On the X axis, we see that hacks and failures have given up believing in anything except selling the next thing. And on the Y axis, we see that professionals have figured out how to balance commercial requirements with the art (and the change) they seek to make.

There’s nothing wrong with being an amateur or a hack, if that’s what you seek. Our goal here is to avoid the heartbreak of being an hack who expects the honor and success that goes to the professional. (Or to be an amateur and fail to embrace the choice).

Silicon Valley

What drives me up the absolute wall is the ideal that wealth is an indicator of personal success and should be celebrated. There are an infinitesimal number of reasons someone could become wealthy (hacking being paramount here), but I feel as though the people we should celebrate are those who make a difference in the world around them.

My favorite party question is to ask someone is Name 5 Billionaires in the Last 5 Years. Now Name 5 Political Activists in the Last 500 Years. It’s crazy everyone I have met rattles off the same Tech Company CEOS for the billionaries, and the only political activist I ever hear is Martin Luther King, Jr. since we have a holiday because of him!


Silicon Valley is the epicenter of all software hacks because no one seems to have a shred of authenticity about them. The developers I have met have no personality outside Hey, I work for x company, that means I’m good at what I do! or endlessly try to shove app ideas down your throat without consideration that said app will have a meaningful impact on my life. It brings me to tears that such a wide variety of cultures, personalities, and talents all mesh together to become the same uninspiring bland code jockey that only dreams of creating or being part of the next hit app.


Professionals are harder to find in my field of view from the very nature that they don’t have a hit app! My ideal professional software developer would have some sort of niche market they service, have close connections with, and have a symbiotic relationship where the value developers produce in their app is reflected fairly with that their audience pays. No predatory pricing policies, no smoke and mirrors to exacerbate what this app can really do. Just here is me, here is my app, here is the journey I plan to go, will you take it with me?


The same issue resounds with me as I was so wrapped up with the Silicon Valley culture that I failed to see the amateurs who actually develop apps for the joy of creating something new. In essence, I’d consider myself to be an amateur! I developed an app used by hundreds of people, and making it run takes a lot of manual input that costs me both time and money (I even have a friend employed to make assets for me part-time!) I do not make a single cent from this operation, but the joy that my users get from me continually producing content is beginning to light a fire in my soul that I can do more for these kind and passionate souls.


Dialogue & Discussion