This is still about business… and your independence.
I’d like to share my view on where I think the economy is going, and why it’s a big factor in driving me to talk so much about well-being.
The majority of you who have subscribed to The Grind signed up because of my personal brand connection with entrepreneurship. Throughout this year as I’ve reinvigorated The Grind, I’ve evolved it into a journal of personal reflection. The reason for that evolution is that I’ve found that for me, high level performance and happiness most often occur when I integrate rather than compartmentalize the various faces of my life.
When I open the computer to consider a topic to write about, my intention is to integrate our internal life with our external (societal / professional) life. That has turned out to be discussing what drives us to do what we do in the world, and how to do that in the healthiest and most effective way possible, and I only speak on topics that my experience has led me to feel I have something valuable to offer in.
These last 6-7 months haven’t just been transformational personally, but also have been on the business front. I’ve closed out some big transactions and they all anchor me around an important identity: Owner.
I talk a lot about being an entrepreneur, not so much about being an owner. The two words could be used interchangeably, but I’m finding that entrepreneur can be a tricky word. You can very easily work yourself to death as an entrepreneur. You can be a slave to your business as an entrepreneur. Neither of these is ideal and both can lead to difficulties in one’s personal life.
Owner has a different implication. It implies you have possession of something, and in the context of business, I’ll add the explicit connotation that the business works for you.
I started my entrepreneurial journey in earnest in 2007 when I left Emma Email Marketing and started a development shop called Remarkable Wit. 2007 was a transitional year for the US economy for many reasons. Most people think about the economic meltdown due to the banks, but what sticks out most to me is Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone to the world.
In January 2007, when Jobs got on stage at the Apple Developer Conference and introduced the iPhone, he showed the world swiping and pinching on a phone for the very first time. That was only 12 years ago.
Before that, no one had swiped or pinched on a phone.
Now it’s all we do, everyday.
I started my entrepreneurial journey at the dawn of a new era of human commerce. Other massive innovations that came alongside the smartphone were cloud computing, 4G networks, APIs and mainstream use of Internet based cryptography. This suite of technologies are what have enabled Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, AirBNB, Uber and more to change the world as we know it. What has happened in the last decade as a result of these innovations and the change in consumer expectations they triggered?
Globalization, automation and disruption.
We are all living in a very new world, with very old rules.
No amount of protest is going to stop these forces, because we now live in a global economy and there will always be a country somewhere in the world that will lean into these forces to be competitive if the US decides not to. This is already happening with blockchain.
The Chairman of the World Economic Forum released a book in 2007 called The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The narrative is that the convergence of a new suite of technologies is catalyzing a new industrial revolution, of which the world’s institutions are not prepared to operate in.
On my entrepreneur journey over the last decade, I was a willing guinea pig, using my ventures to test out many new frameworks and philosophies on how work was evolving. New office layouts, management methodologies, project management frameworks and more. None of them were very well tested, and they really didn’t account for the rate of change and the relentless pace of technology driven disruption. But they were better than most management books from the sixties, so I ran with them.
In these last 7 or so months however, I’ve come to a sobering conclusion, which has led me to position myself much more as an owner than an entrepreneur, and to focus on myself as my most important asset. I’ve realized that globalization and automation’s ultimate end is the removal of economically valuing human labor in time increments.
That’s extreme, I know. But from where I sit, most of what I see is headed here.
If someone told you 20 years ago that we would all be swiping and pinching on our phones, instead of talking to each other or watching the road when we’re driving, you would have thought they were crazy.
Things are changing really quickly.
This shift away from industries valuing human labor in time increments (hourly wages and even salaries) is why we are having parallel conversations about raising the minimum wage and Universal Basic Income. Because people are increasingly concerned that minimum wage increases are a temporary fix, not a long term one.
I’m not saying this is morally right, but I am saying that based on my experience as a venture capitalist and technologist, I don’t think it’s going to stop.
That gets me to my point of why I’m talking about things like controlling your time, being healthy, being entrepreneurial or now being an owner. I said this four years ago, and I believe it even more-so now. For many people (who aren’t in a automation safe profession or an industry likely to be disrupted), understanding how to leverage the Internet, and find authentic, creative ways to provide value to society and capitalizing on them yourself is going to be a necessary life skill in the not too distant future.
I believe these skills are going to be key to thriving in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Codependence of any kind is going to be a vulnerability as the world continues to evolve. Of course, we are all connected and there is no true, 100% independence in society. We need each other, I acknowledge that and am grateful for that truth. But some degree of economic independence may be required for one to thrive going forward. Independence means not being subject to the control of others and not relying on someone or something else. That is something to strive for.
The good news is, you have one asset that is in very limited supply with tremendous value to the world. You. There is only one you. We shouldn’t be valuing you simply by the hours you put into your work? Your value can’t be measured in hours anyway.
Even though I’ve been on an entrepreneurial journey for over a decade, it has only been in the last 6-7 months that I’ve truly been embracing myself as an owner. Finding the courage to claim my independence in all relationships, so that I can be a better partner in all aspects of my life, rather than being codependent and compromised. As I’ve made this shift, I look at the future with excitement and confidence, because I know that I am more than capable of navigating what lies ahead if I’m living authentically.
When I’m saying over and over to control your time, its because I want you to know how powerful you are and how your time is truly your most limited resource. It’s also because I fully believe that those who do will thrive in the new economy, and those who don’t could easily become the collateral damage of globalization and automation.
Our economic and emotional wellbeing are integrated. I want the best for you on both fronts.
Have a very grateful week.