Because your parents and grandparents and their parents had jobs, you might think having a job is normal. But, actually, jobs are abnormal, bordering on the bizarre.
In the long and turbulent timeline of human history, having a job is a very unusual thing.
We hunted and gathered things for the vast majority of our existence. Then we started planting crops and, through trial and error (and through learning astronomy), we got really good at it. So much so, we turned civilization on its head and created an agrarian economy, where people could stay in the same place and form societies.
The first corporation, though, wasn’t created until relatively recently in the 17th century. They were initially set up to finance trips to the New World.
Then came the Industrial Revolution, which created the modern “firm.” The corporation as we know it now — a top-down hierarchical construct — is only a couple hundred years old, at best.
So jobs are actually quite a new phenomenon. Before jobs, you either grew your own food or you had a trade. You were a blacksmith or a shoemaker or made soap or churned butter. You also worked directly with your consumer, without the need for an intermediary — such as a firm — standing between you.
“So the job, what you think of as a job, where some organization pays you a salary, this is really really new,” Skinner Layne, founder of Exosphere, said during a recent talk he gave at LOGIN Startup Fair in Lithuania. “Most humans that ever lived didn’t have anything that resembled a job. Nothing.”
So when you think about it, the traditional “rules” for success are even more unusual and uncommon. These rules — go to school, get a good paying job and ride it out until your Golden Years — only worked in a very rigid environment for a very short amount of time. And now, all of a sudden, we’re entering this economic arena where they don’t work at all.
And people are losing their [expletive deleted] minds.
But have no fear. The market is slowly morphing into what Skinner calls the “Creative Economy.” Even in the near term, scores of people will thrive in this new landscape and have more freedom than they ever dreamed possible. Others, though, will be absolutely blindsided and crushed.
But here’s the thing…
No matter where you are in life, where you grew up, where you went to school, what age you are, where you’ve worked for the past umpteen years, whatever, you have an opportunity, more opportunity than ever in history in fact, to thrive.
And we want you to be ready.
According to Skinner, there’s a GUARANTEED way to survive and thrive in this new economy. It’s a strategy absolutely anyone can use. And it’s basically foolproof.
We’ll get to that in a moment.
“The Creative Economy doesn’t have to do with being an artist or something like that,” says Skinner. “Not the term creativity as you’re thinking about it. Rather, the Creative Economy is a world in which individuals have to find direct ways to create value for customers, rather than being intermediated through a firm.”
There are a couple of temporary downsides to this new economy. First, what we’re experiencing, and will be experiencing in the coming years, will be a job and venture capital apocalypse. The traditional job and startup company paradigm is dying.
“It’s not going to just get better,” Skinner says. “It’s not like we’re going to have another crash and then this funding environment will come back. It’s not coming back this time. Three times institutional investors get burned, you’re going to have to wait for a generational change. A whole bunch of them are going to die before insurance companies and pension funds start investing in venture capital again. They literally will have to die.
Moreover, says Skinner, “This particular crash is not going to be like the last one. It’s not going to be sudden. And it has to do with Sarbanes-Oxley. It’s made it impossible for startups to do IPOs. The IPO market is going down. Meaning, fewer public companies with the capital to acquire companies and there are fewer startups going public. The two ways startups exit. Acquire and IPO. Those options are dead.”
The good news, Skinner says, is this: “It means you get to take control over your own life and not be dictated by a boss or an investor. Embracing the unknown, dedicating yourself to learning new skills, and reinventing yourself for the Creative Economy is a more exciting and fulfilling way to spend life than showing up every day to a job you hate, no matter how safe it may feel.”
On the flipside, here’s the second temporary downside: “We aren’t really prepared for this Creative Economy thing. Taking responsibility for our own actions? No. We can’t have that. Please. No.
“Everybody is kind of terrified of taking responsibility for his or her own life because when things don’t go well, you have nobody to blame but yourself. So this is why we all run away from responsibility. As fast as we can. We love to blame everyone else for our own problems.
“Oh, I would be so successful, but the government. Too much regulation, taxes are too high, so it’s the government’s fault that I’m a failure and a loser.
“Well, I can’t just get that promotion because my boss is a real jerk. Insert all the excuses you have in your life for being mediocre. Because by definition the vast majority of people are just mediocre. You know, bell curve… middle… that’s most people.
“You’re mediocre because you choose to be mediocre. You could choose not to be. It means taking serious responsibility for the structure of your own life. So in the Creative Economy, it means you have to have a personal strategy.
“And I suggest adopting Nassim Taleb’s barbell strategy. The barbell strategy is the best way to achieve my guaranteed formula for success.
“It works every time.”
Today, we invite Skinner to give you the lowdown on the barbell strategy — his formula for guaranteed success in the Creative Economy. Below, you’ll learn how to leverage both survival and luck to hit it big, and never have to work another day at a job again.
Survive. Thrive. Be free.
If you look at history, we have two of my favorite ancient civilizations. Romans and the Egyptians.
I want to be like an Egyptian.
The Egyptians studied astronomy, built ships and built things that would last thousands of years. They had a very slow growth approach of building civilizations.
The Romans, on the other hand, had a mentality of conquer as fast as you can and hope that the cost of conquest doesn’t catch up to you.
Most startups find themselves with the cost of expansion eventually catching up with them. And then what happens? Can’t raise any more money? You go broke. You expanded too quickly. You didn’t build revenue. You may not have built a proper product and then it’s over.
So people talk about failing fast. I think this is bullshit.
What they should say is experiment, measure the cost of your experiment, run as many as them as you can, but avoid failure. Like failure where you run out of money and have to start over from scratch. 100% of startups that fail, fail for ONE reason. They run out of money.
The true key to success, then, is survival plus luck.
This is the guaranteed way to be successful in life. Because the longer you survive, the more chances you have to get lucky. And most people with lots of money they got lucky and they passed it off as talent. Because that’s the way people are.
This is one of our great cognitive biases is that we see somebody who has something and we assume they must’ve gotten it because they’re better than we are, or they’re smarter than we are, or whatever.
Most of the time, it’s just because they got lucky. I mean, why does Uber come on stage instead of Lyft? Well it’s kind of market luck. Same product. One wins one loses.
If you look at the old battles between HDTV and Blu Ray, or VHS and Betamax, it has nothing to do with who had the better technology. Apple and Microsoft in the early days. Steve Jobs’ technology was much better. But talent is not enough. You have to get lucky.
Now if you are dead and out of the market, you have no chances of getting lucky. Zero.
I like to play poker. Something I’ve learned from poker is that if I’m playing a hand of poker and I bet big early on, I have fewer chips to bet later when I really need them. I also find people who bet everything early on in the game and lose, well, they’re out. So all of the possible hands they could’ve been dealt in the future, they don’t even get to see.
How many people have played a game of poker where the hand ends but you want to see what hand you would’ve gotten so you ask the dealer to flip over the cards? But it doesn’t matter, right? You didn’t get there. The hand ended.
In the creative economy, you want to make sure you don’t play all of your chips until you’re done playing. Which would, hopefully, be when you’re in your eighties and dying.
But this is a totally different kind of strategy than we’re used to playing. We’re used to playing it moderately safe, get a good paying job for a company whose finances we don’t understand so we don’t know actually how at risk they are of going bankrupt.
That’s most people’s model of getting a job.
How many people know the financial health of their employer? Very few. We don’t check this because we don’t want to know. We don’t really embrace the reality of our risks.
We live in a world now where automation is increasingly creating revolutions in industries that people didn’t think could be automated.
In medicine, we’re about to have no need for doctors anymore. That’s one of the most critical things happening in AI right now is that the elimination of the need for doctors.
You may find yourself one day working in a job that gets completely cut by market forces. And what do you do?
How do you survive?
Yes, you could go protest in the streets and that will feed you exactly ZERO days. Protesting is shockingly not good for filling your stomach. It may bring you some sort of emotional satisfaction, but it doesn’t put food on the table.
Italy has the highest unemployment rate in history for a decade. Spain has a 60% unemployment rate. That’s the future of everywhere if you don’t create your future.
Instead, I suggest adopting Nassim Taleb’s barbell strategy. The barbell strategy is the best way to achieve my guaranteed formula for success.
So the barbell strategy goes like this: You invest 80 to 90% of your resources into something safe that guarantees that you can eat. And then you invest the other 10 to 20% in something that might have the possibility of getting lucky and having a huge exponential payoff.
So it’s the alternative to the unicorn startup model. It’s the antithesis of the Roman startup model, which is to chase a bunch of investment money as fast as you can and hope that you get big enough that somebody buys you before the chickens come home to roost.
Instead, you should find a way to provide value to somebody… and preferably a couple of somebodies… so you’re not reliant on one. Provide that value day after day, even though it’s boring. Even though you know your mother doesn’t really want to brag about it to her friends.
You do that, day in and day out, and with discipline, continue to invest in the long shots, that probably won’t ever pay you anything. But you know that you can keep eating.
Then you actually have the possibility of a breakout.
It’s a very conservative approach. And people tend not to enjoy conservative things.
They want to hear about how everything is changing. And how all of the rules are going to be different.
But I’ve given you the guaranteed strategy for the creative economy.
It’s not going to be easy, but anyone can do it. There’s no room for excuses anymore.
This life of responsibility and risk-taking is where meaning is created. Meaning is created when we solve problems, when friction meets reality.
No problem solves itself. But that friction needs to be both bold and responsible.
It’s easy to be one or the other. It’s very hard to be both.
[Ed. note: This article was adapted from Skinner Layne’s speech at LOGIN Startup Fair 2016 in Lithuania. You can watch the full, incredible speech right here at this link.]
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