The Gift Culture

Shepard Fairey - Obama Hope PosterThe Obama Poster

When Shepard Fairey created the Obama Hope poster he set out to make some money and support his political beliefs. From his initial print run, he sold 350 copies and gave away another 350. By October 2009, he’d printed 300,000 posters and sold only 2000 of them. The rest were given away. (Source: Wikipedia )

To give away 99% of your product doesn’t sound like good business practice. Think of all the money he left on the printing table. Yet, from that one poster, Fairey’s career is now firmly established.

His poster became the icon of the Obama campaign, was acquired by the Smithsonian for the National Portrait Gallery and he now has an international reputation.

He’s also become the poster-child (sic) of the gift culture built on generosity.

The Growth of the Gift Culture

The gift culture is growing in importance for three important reasons:

  1. The internet promotes a gift culture because the cost to give away a digital product is so low.
  2. To be an artist you need to create the work for it’s own sake. To create it with money in mind is to pollute it.
  3. The act of giving quietens the resistance of your lizard brain and frees you up to do your best work.

To be a Linchpin you need to be indispensable. To be indispensable you need to create your best work. And, the key to this is to free yourself from the results it will produce. An artist works for art’s sake. And, a true artist’s work is always a gift. Turn your contribution into a gift for art’s sake.



  • Are you doing your best work?
  • If you’re not doing your best work, what’s stopping you?
  • What are you giving away?
  • What else could you give away?


This is from the Book Rapper issue Purple You as derived from Seth Godin’s book Linchpin: Are you indispensable?


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