I'm bewildered by the responses to this blog. I've made four posts, but what I think are the most useful ones aren't the most popular. According to Facebook likes, the fluffy "inspirational" posts went down twice as well as the posts with evidence-based advice. Do people just want to dream about happy stories and motivational slogans, but not actually roll up their sleeves and change anything? The typical workplace is becoming bleaker, more condescending, and more sapping of vitality and prosperity. You are a creature with infinite possibilities and a depressingly short lifetime. Did you dream of being a corporate drone as a child?
Wake up! My job is to replace your job with robots and automated systems. Those taking part in the technological revolution are about the only ones doing well right now. You are now competing globally with an ever-growing number of people. Your government isn't looking out for you, and the market system definitely isn't; the financial crisis and austerity were excuses to make us all settle for less. Those jobs aren't coming back, except in a contract form with the rights and benefits stripped away. Your retirement fund is probably going to get wiped out by inflation, some incompetent government, or a major world event. History changes quickly and out of nowhere, and it's not likely to change for the better any time soon.
If you are a postdoc scientist, you are probably working long hours for almost nothing. If you are an intern, you are probably being cycled through jobs as an endless source of free labour. If you are an employee, how long do you think it will be before you are re-hired as a disposable contractor, if you aren't already? The value of employee labour, even skilled labour, is approaching nothing. If you sit around and wait for other people to hand you work and money, you are going to get the scraps.
Businesses now have more rights and respect than citizens or employees. Be a business. If you can get out of the employment system now, you are ahead of the game. Or you will be pushed out later, along with everyone else.
A world of free-wheeling freelancers cutting each other's throats probably isn't a great world to live in either. But that's the world that's coming, and if you're too busy struggling to survive, you won't have the chance to try for a better one.
One spring day while I was running our Australian company, it was just too beautiful outside to work. The sunshine had burnt the last chill of winter out of the air, and the sky was an intense blue. I shut my computer down at 2:30pm, jumped on my bike, and raced down to the beach for a swim. I met a beautiful girl there and we ended up together. The moral to that story is: luck can strike at any time, but it probably isn't going to strike when you're stuck at work. So get the hell out of the office.
Good employees are replaceable, not exceptional. Tucked away in your cubicle, doing the same thing every day, you have almost no exposure to lucky breaks. I don't know if you're destined to change the world, but I know your chances are close to zero if all your tasks are fed to you by your employers. The world needs you out there right now, doing your own thing, trying new solutions. Go back to your old company later as a freelancer if you like; you will be a better worker for it.
I've just finished reading Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. The guy started a successful business from nothing, which gave him the time and opportunity to, among other things: double the whole world's heating efficiency with a new stove design, discover that lightning was electricity, and create the United States. The world needs thousands of Benjamin Franklins to get us out of this downward spiral. I know I'm not enough of a genius or a leader to try and emulate him - I actually prefer other people to tell me what to do. However, maybe it could be you.
Life is short, and most of its potential falls between nine and five on weekdays.
I made an app, Hands-free Photos, which I thought was so pointless that made it free. Last week I was randomly contacted by a blind man, and a carer for arthritis sufferers. Apparently the technology it uses has real benefits for disabled people. That direction would never presented itself in a day job, where I wouldn't have any leisure time to pepper the app store with a lot of "useless" apps and see what caught on. It's a small development, but one that has got me excited about improving and expanding my trade in a new way. Now I am up late, inspired by the idea that small changes in the way I build my software could mean life-changing opportunities for people with disabilities.
Why do people keep signing up for an increasingly bad deal with employment? Firstly, it's the zero-thought option: just do what everyone else is doing. However, right now, "everyone else" is a lemming.
People tend to stay where they are because they need to feel secure. This security is an illusion; somewhere, you're just a number on someone's spreadsheet, and you could lose your livelihood with one click. For years I'd built my career around a certain technology, and in literally one day I went from being a trainer worth thousands a day, to almost useless. If you are independent you already have no job to lose. Every day you are using survival skills for dealing with whatever life throws at you, adapting and spotting opportunities until it becomes second nature.
I feel self-conscious preaching from my tech-elite, middle-class pulpit. Perhaps you have responsibilities and debt, which makes it impossible to start a business tomorrow. Debt, family obligations, and living from payday to payday, is something I've never experienced. However, becoming independent doesn't start with money in the bank and existing contacts lining up to throw money at you. It's a change in perspective; a desire to live every moment of your life for your own benefit, or those you choose to benefit. Take some of the time you spend commenting on cats on Facebook, and instead start a blog and make comments about what matters to you, instead. Build a body of Intellectual Property. Instead of watching Next Top Model, write an email to one of your heroes for some career advice to inspire you. Fight the monotony and inevitability of employment.
I want to help you. I happen to make apps for a living, so that's what I'm offering. I will build an app with you. For free. I already have this deal with my friends - I'm extending it to you. An app could be the first item in your portfolio as an entrepreneur. I want you to be in the same situation that I am right now, where you have the time and resources to be able to experiment, teach, write, and develop new ideas, or even build apps for strangers, whenever you feel like it.
Also, I will help you dance better. For free. Tango plus dance fundamentals. Every Wednesday in our new "club house".
If you're not interested in the dancing, here's the deal with the apps. There are four conditions.
If you want to bend any or all of these rules, of course you could pay me to develop it.
What do I get out of it? The chance that some of you will join me in making bigger and better projects. Also, I think that as technology is currently wiping whole industries, its benefits should be shared with all.
So there you go. Now you have no excuses. Open a crack in the window of your life for something good to fly in. If you're going to write to me with an app idea, you'll need to convince me it's a good use of our time. So you will be practising your sales skills. If you need some pointers, check my sales manual.
If you can't think of an app idea, read my first post about taking your first step towards independence. (Accessibility tip: whenever you put a link to something in your text online, link the whole sentence. That way, if someone vision-impaired is reading it with a screen reader, they will hear the whole sentence).
The employment world is going into meltdown: robots or temp workers will be doing your job in a few years. Give yourself the chance to do interesting things at your leisure.
Please write to me with your app proposal, thoughts and suggestions.
Or at least "like" or "share" this post to give someone else a chance to shake their life up a bit.
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|I'll build your app to help you become independent. For free.|
|Why there is no Facebook killer: the death of the P2P dream|
|How to become a freelancer in Berlin: the tricks and the traps|
|How to write a proposal they can't refuse|
|Programming basics for everyone: how to try coding right now, and why you need to.|
|Poledancing versus programming: break away from your business and run it remotely.|
Needless to say, this blog isn't financial or legal advice, an excuse for getting fired, or promising that any of these ideas will work for you. The companies or people I mention may not agree with my opinions here. Don't do anything reckless, damaging or hurtful to anyone! In the future you might need your bridges unburnt.