Learn, Earn, Return—Lessons from The Muse and The Marketplace 2014

During this year’s The Muse and the Marketplace, Grub Street’s annual writers’ conference, one particular idea struck me immediately and deeply. It was perspective and philosophy not on writing but on career and life. During a discussion on partner publishing, literary agent April Ebhardt mentioned that one’s career and life can be thought of as having 3 stages: Learn, Earn and Return. That seemed like such a clear and practical view.

Undoubtedly, all times in our lives incorporate some combination of learning, earning and returning (I think all are essential to being truly human), but certain epochs of our lives are (and maybe even should be) largely spent in one of these three modes of operating. There’s something deeply intuitive to the trajectory April succinctly describes. Perhaps we can return the most when we’ve been able to learn valuable lessons and have earned respect as well as acquired influence and resource.

Maybe the perspective to carry forward is always be a mixture of learn, earn and return, and also know which one should predominate.

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