Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
NFT art has been making headlines. There’s artist Victor Langlois, also known as FEWOCiOUS, whose NFT art series generated $2.16 million at a Christie’s auction this summer. Another example? Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple, had his art sold by Christie’s for $69 million.
These numbers are jaw-dropping. However, the NFT art world stands out for reasons beyond money.
My connection to the NFT art world comes from knowing my friend and business partner Eddie Gangland, a San Francisco-based artist making waves in that area. Through watching the NFT art careers of Eddie and other artists in the space develop on Clubhouse and beyond, I’ve learned five valuable lessons that I believe all business leaders can benefit from.
1. How you treat people matters.
People do business with people they like, respect and feel respected by. As Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, professor of network science at Northeastern University and Central European University, wrote for The New York Times, traditionally, “the art market has thrived in opacity.” However, now, “NFT-based art brings a welcome degree of transparency to ownership and transactions.”
By virtue of their work being viewed and sold in such a public and open manner, NFT artists who treat potential sellers well will stand out from the crowd. Those NFT artists are the ones who’ll get referrals to other buyers, and as a result, will become increasingly successful. Similarly, no matter what line of work you’re in, how you treat people will come back to you. Treat them well, and you’ll get referrals sent your way. Treat them negatively, and it’ll be a different story.
2. Pay it forward.
The NFT art community has shown itself to be one that pays it forward. Russian NFT artists, for example, have organized to sell their work to support journalists under pressure by the Russian government. The artist Beeple donated proceeds from one of his pieces to the Open Earth Foundation. Even celebrities have sold their own NFTs for charity.
Additionally, something I’ve seen close up is how NFT artists like Eddie lift each other up, bringing other creatives with them as they progress in their careers. The lesson here? Don’t use people as stepping stones. Instead, recognize how they’ve impacted you along the way and help them out in kind.
3. Don’t let negative past experiences ruin your future.
Every artist has had their share of negative experiences in their career. As has every business leader. However, no matter what field you’re in, one of the keys to success is not letting past experiences ruin your future. NFT art gives artists, some of whom have struggled to cobble together a living, another revenue outlet.
Consider this: Prior to making $69 million for his NFT art, the most Beeple had ever gotten for a print was $100. I’ve seen my friend Eddie deal with business setbacks, and instead of letting those failures sour his attitude, he used them to become more generous, kinder and wiser.
In any line of business, you should seek to turn your failures and the lessons you learn from them into opportunities. Have a new product line that failed? Now you have the opportunity to research why and ensure that you don’t make similar mistakes moving forward. Have a novel that got rejected? With the feedback you received from publishers, you can revamp your writing and try again.
4. Strive to learn as much as possible.
Operating in a very public, rapidly evolving market, NFT artists have to consistently upgrade their skills and knowledge to stay ahead. From marketing to branding to the artistic techniques themselves, NFT artists can’t afford to let their skills lag. This is true in any field. Whether you’re a doctor, engineer, writer, electrician or teacher, you’ll fall behind if you don’t stay up-to-date with the latest in your industry.
Additionally, don’t limit yourself to just learning about things in your field. You can be a doctor who learns about writing, an engineer who learns about political activism and so forth. The more you expand your knowledge, the more you’ll connect with others and gain perspectives that can give you an edge at work—and as a human being.
5. Avoid viewing money as the be-all, end-all.
This sounds antithetical to how I opened the piece—discussing the incredible amount of money some NFT art has been sold for. However, the biggest lesson the NFT art world has taught me is that money isn’t the be-all, end-all of business.
Don’t get me wrong. Successful businesses are fundamentally about generating revenue. But how you generate that revenue is becoming increasingly more important.
The NFT art community is a prime example of how treating people well, paying it forward, avoiding becoming demotivated from setbacks and striving to learn as much as possible as you set out to make money will make all the difference.