I’ll start with a simple example–pizza.
What goes into a pizza? A fistful of dough. A cup of tomato sauce. A sprinkling of grated cheese. Plus assorted toppings, depending on tastes. Maybe half of a green pepper, a couple of mushrooms, and a few inches of pepperoni, all sliced thinly. Stack them on the counter like that and no one would put them on their plate.
Yet, when the dough is rolled into a 14-inch circle, and all those dabs of ingredients are spread strategically on top and baked, it comes out as a pie worth $20 or more.
That we pay for that transmutation is a trick of human perception. I learned this while taking teacher education courses. One of our upper-level lessons was to observe how preschool children perceive space.
One simple test was to take two equal amounts of clay, and roll one into a ball and press one into a disk. We would then ask the child, which one was “more.”
Up to a certain age, the child always chose the flattened disk. In their developing brain, the “pizza” looked larger than the ball. While we eventually learn intellectually that the masses of both objects are equal, regardless of shape, I’m convinced we carry the vestigial impression that a pizza offers more value than the sum of its parts.
Another example is the phenomenon of “the deck.” Drive through any Midwestern city and notice how every home has a deck attached on back. Now, the function of a deck–a place to grill, a place to sit, a place to take selfies of your feet propped up on a fire pit–could be filled just as effectively on any 10×10 patch of ground. Yet somehow by laying boards and raising it up a foot off the ground the experience is enhanced and the home value increased. This doesn’t even change the dimensions as in our pizza example–it just increases the altitude slightly.
Taking a huge leap in intuition, I realized one way to create wealth is to manipulate space in three dimensions.
As I drove past an empty field, I assessed its value as “extremely low” for someone looking for a place to live. After all, it is an empty field. But the minute someone comes along and takes what is essentially 6 planar shapes and slaps them together to form a box, they have created a “house.” It is the same space and location as before, only someone has demarcated the space by enclosing it. Voila! It has gone from no value to the mid-seven figures (in this market).
Now I look around at the world and try to see what else attains added value just through the manipulation of its size, shape, or placement. In a way, it’s what writers do with words–we rearrange them to reflect and communicate our ideas so that they can form similar ideas in other brains. Authors who can do that effectively create income out of nothing.
How do you manipulate space to create value?