I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of making a living lately, especially now that I’m doing it for the first time. I remember, when I first started looking for work, asking my dad for job hunting advice. “I don’t really know what to tell you. I’ve always just made my own.” That hasn’t left me. I doubt it ever will. The days of honing a skill, finding an employer, and doing what he/she says for however many years are dying, if they have any life left to begin with. To be honest, that kind of work never really interested me in the first place. I grew up watching my dad and his buddies build businesses and create their own sources of income. Money always came in from somewhere because they worked to have multiple projects generating income at the same time. That life demands flexibility, adaptability, outside the lines thinking, and taking lots of calculated risks. It demands that you be teachable and always willing and wanting to learn new things. And I’m pretty sure it’s the only way to survive going forward.
Times, they are a changin’ as they say. The old ways of work are gone. That’s a fact. As a historian, I’m hard wired to look back and consider trends, events, movements, and ideas within a larger context. I always want to define and support any claims with hard evidence from the past. This kind of thinking is, I think (I hope), generally a healthy way to begin to examine the world. But it’s not enough on it’s own. It can lead to tunnel vision. It produces very specific, rigid ways of doing life. Without a careful, intentional eye on what’s happening NOW and on what direction we seem to be headed we’ll get stuck. I’ll get stuck.
As this relates to the idea of making a living for myself, I’m beginning to learn how to stop looking back at how things have been done, because that isn’t going to cut it anymore. Check out Seth Godin’s blog today. His thoughts on work and business really pounded on my front door today. He says, “The sooner we realize that the world has changed, the sooner we can accept it and make something of what we’ve got. Whining isn’t a scalable solution.” I love this. Everything is changing. Our institutions, our expectations, our beliefs, our diets are changing for heaven’s sake. Nothing is exempt from the fundamental overhaul of the way Americans in the 21st century see the world. Nothing. So why try to do business the way we’ve always done it? Why stick to a formula that is rapidly becoming obsolete? I’ve always been a firm believer in the very American mission of ‘go to college, get a degree, find work in that field and live happily ever after’ but it’s not happening that way anymore. I have a history degree that I had a great time earning, but have no concrete plans to do anything with it that might make me any money anytime soon (Sorry, Mom and Dad). I’m far more interested in turning the things that I’m learning about nutrition and holistic healthfulness into a sustainable source of income. I’m interested in starting things. I want, like my dad has always done, to create my own work out of what inspires me.
I recommend Rework by the guys over at 37 signals to anyone interested in creating multiple sources of income for themselves. Speaking of overhaul, here is a book that will turn conventional ideas about business and management on their heads and spin them around just for good measure. This book got me started on this path on which I see starting my own thing as a realistic possibility, not something great for MBAs but out of reach for me. Work is changing. As unemployment rates continue to soar, those who don’t have the cajones to create something for themselves will continue to be frustrated and broke. There is a new normal, folks. We’re not going back. The past is dead and done. Trust me, the history student in me is as bummed about it as you are. However, we’re starting something new here, and the Generation Y lover of change in me is positively titillated. That’s right. Titillated.
It’s happening right now. Create your own bandwagon. Everybody’s doing it.