Selling Time

selling time
You can spend all your time making money…The Eagles

 

Secrets of passive income

Life is the most precious commodity we have.  If you’re under thirty, it can seem like it will go on forever.   But it won’t.

The good news is that we now seem to have more time than we’ve had at any point in modern human history, thanks to advances in medicine, sanitation, hygiene, agriculture, etc.

For most of the last 500 years, the average person that survived infancy could expect to live between 35 and 40 years.  Disease and infection killed most of us long before old age got the chance.

The chart below shows how much and how quickly our lifespans have increased:

Life expectancy chart

You can find the original chart at Ourworldindata.org which discusses the data in more detail.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with passive income, this is where we get to that.  The vast majority of us work for a wage or a salary.  This really means that we’re selling our time, the essence of our lives, for money.  We’re selling time that we could spend with our wives and children, or our parents, or traveling, or writing, or growing an organic garden, or volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or improving  our fitness and health.

This is an important secret of passive income:  If we’re earning a salary or a wage, we’re not just selling time, we’re selling our very lives.  No matter how good the pay is, we’re still selling something that we can never buy back.  It’s a secret that our bosses don’t want us to learn.  Fortunately for them, most of us never will.

Passive income gives us the freedom to SPEND our time instead of SELLING it.

Seeing income in terms of what we are REALLY trading to earn it helps to keep our lives in balance and our finances in perspective.  It’s one thing to pay $2,000 for the latest flat screen, but would we trade a treasured memory for it?   Most of us could have created some wonderful memories with the TIME that we’ve traded to buy things that may only end up costing us even MORE time.

Most people think of passive income as the privilege of the very wealthy.  One of the themes of period shows like Downton Abbey is that the landed gentry or the aristocracy had social status that not only didn’t require them to sell their time for money, it forbade them from it.  In centuries past, it was the privilege only of a relative handful of aristocrats to have  passive income and to spend their time instead of selling it.

Now we come to the second important secret of passive income: in 2016, anyone that wants to develop passive income can.

If you’re like most of the people I talk to, you won’t believe that last statement, but it’s true for literally the first time in human history.   It doesn’t matter whether we grew up in a trailer park or a mcmansion, anyone with the desire to live on a passive income can do it.

This is due partly to changes in culture that have broken down the barriers once erected by the aristocracy, but it’s mainly due to computer and internet technology and a huge shift in economic priorities.

Throughout history, business consisted of producing a good or service and selling them one at a time to buyers that needed and could afford them.  The market places were small in most cases, and totally limited by geography.

Today, we can produce just one product and some kinds of services and sell them over and over again without needing to manufacture, package, label, or ship a single physical item.  If that seems impossible, consider an ebook or an mp3 song, or an image, or a video that can be uploaded once, but downloaded an infinite number of times without raising your production costs by more than a few tens or hundreds of dollars.  And instead of a market that’s limited to a few mile radius from the place where products are produced, it is a simple matter to reach literally around the globe with digital products.

Anyone can write. That means you can publish an ebook.  If you have musical talent, you can upload and sell your music.  Once it’s uploaded, you can sell that one product a million times.  Not only is it perfectly legal, but your customers will all have gotten exactly what they wanted and what they paid for.

There are many, many more ways to develop passive incomes and we’ll go through the mechanics of developing them.  The most important thing for now is to REALLY understand the reasons that you should never be satisfied with any income that isn’t passive.

Before we go on, it’s important to point out that passive incomes are not necessarily the ONLY way you should ever seek to earn an income.  Developing good passive income streams requires many things, some that include experience, perhaps an education, and almost always capital to get started.

I’ve had a great career as a geologist that’s allowed me to see and experience things that I would have missed without a science degree.  I’ve been involved in offshore oil exploration, drilled on the North Slope of Alaska where I watched the Aurora Borealis nearly touch the horizon, I’ve explored remote mountains for gold ore deposits, and been involved with Superfund and other environmental cleanups of bay sediments, soil, and groundwater.

Those were all great experiences.   And all helped to contribute to my some passive income streams.  If you’re passionate about a particular career path, pursue it zealously.   The decision to pursue a degree in today’s rapidly changing economy is not an easy one, partly because not all colleges and universities are keeping up technologies, and partly because tuition and other costs are so high.  This is a vital topic that we’ll explore later.

Here’s the third secret of passive incomes: they’re not necessarily EASY to develop, but everyone that I know that has them agrees that they are worth every effort and every inconvenience.

If you make up your mind now that you’d rather spend your time than sell it, and if you truly understand that no one can pay you what your life is worth, you will make developing passive incomes the top priority of your life.

Stay tuned as we pick some specific strategies and blueprints for making the transition to freedom.  Our newsletter will give you insights, tips, and action steps for creating your passive income lifeline.  Sign up now.

Ending the commute

freedom road sign 2

Since over 70% of us don’t like our jobs, it’s worth considering a step that reduces our stress and discomfort.  Eliminating your commute might be just the ticket.

There relatively stress-free ways to work from home.  This will eliminate the cost of commuting, give you an extra hour of sleep each day, and give you more time to add other income streams.

Here are Five Ways to Work From Home As A Call Center Representative…Without Going Into Sales.

We’ll explore more work-from-home opportunities in the days ahead.  Working from home is a step on the transition to freedom, but only a step.  Since 93% of small business owners enjoy their work, and their incomes are often scalable, meaning that small business owners can increase their income by adding staff, increasing production, or adding locations.

Small business owners sell more than their time, and that’s a big step forward on the transition to freedom.



Freelancing: 5 ways to supplement your income

cubilcle prison

Think outside the cubicle

The sharing economy is one of the developments that’s offering new opportunities to make money outside of the 9 to 5 cubicle .  Uber and Lyft let you earn money with your car.

Sites like Airbnb and Homeaway let you rent rooms or your entire home to budget-conscious travelers, or anyone that’s weary of sterile corporate hotels.   And there are many freelance sites that connect buyers with sellers of virtually any service that can be uploaded, downloaded, emailed, or otherwise digitally transferred.

Make Money With Fiverr

For anyone that’s interested in developing new income streams (which should be just about everyone), offering your skills on a freelance basis is a great option.  Freelancing allows you to set your own hours, and to choose the projects that interest you most.

If you think you don’t have a skill or ability that’s valuable, you’re probably wrong.  If you can speak aloud, you can offer to record voicemail greetings for business owners or for anyone that’s not happy with the sound of their own voice (which is a surprisingly large potential market).  If you can type, you can transcribe audio into text.  If you have creative writing skills, you can research and write articles of virtually any length for bloggers and website owners.

If you’re new to freelancing, my top pick for your first foray is Fiverr.com.   Yes, there are two “r”s in Fiverr.

Fiverr’s unique approach was to have freelancers offer “gigs”, individual custom digital products, for $5.  If your first thought is that you’ll never work for such a paltry sum, don’t go away mad. There’s more to the story.   Many Fiverr freelancers are making 5 and 6 figures annually, and do nothing but offer their services on this versatile and popular platform.

With more than 20 million visitors to the site per month, there are more than enough customers to go around.  Typical gigs consist of a basic service with optional add-ons.  These include expedited delivery times, and can easily drive the cost of gig into the hundreds of dollars.

Five Easy Fiverr Gigs

To get familiar with the Fiverr community, starting with something basic is the best approach.  Your long term viability will depend heavily on how well you perform with your first clients, since 5 star ratings are crucial.  Many Fiverr freelancers develop relationships with their clients that allow them to create steady income streams.

The fact that this work can be done anywhere in the world where you have a good internet connection and can power up your computer should make freelancing a very appealing option for just about everyone.  Once you’ve mastered the basics of operating as a Fiverr freelancer, you may want to explore other platforms, like Freelancer,  Elance, Upwork, and even Craigslist.  Entrepreneur magazine has a good article about freelance sites here.

Meanwhile, here are my five top recommendations for easy Fiverr gigs to get you started:

  1. If you have any skill as a writer, offer to write articles for website owners.  There is a large and growing need for well-written content that’s fresh and engaging.  Start by offering 100 words for $5, but check other writing offers to see what the common rates are.  Your initial goal is to gain a following of happy customers.  Once you have that base, you can adjust your rates.
  2. You can offer to edit articles.  Bloggers and other prolific writers will often churn out a couple of thousand words a day, and they need a second pair of eyes to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  3. Offer app reviews for iPhone and Google app developers.  Reviews are a vital part of their ability to sell their apps.  Build in the cost of purchasing the app to your gig.  This can be challenging, because some apps are garbage.  It’s possible to maintain your integrity, but you’ll end up having to refuse to fulfill a few gigs for bad developers.
  4. Write resumes and cover letters.  There are some excellent guides and books on this subject, and while you may have a learning curve, once you get some templates set up, it will become very easy to crank out dozens of pretty high quality resumes and letters.
  5. Offer custom privacy policies and terms and conditions for website owners.   Facebook, Google, and other social media sites have guidelines that require websites to cover certain policy matters in these documents, you can find or purchase a template that meets the criteria of the top traffic engines, modifying it for each client.  These modifications will largely include only names, addresses, and contact information, which can be done quickly with a search and replace feature of any word processor.

Working as freelancer requires self-motivation, and self-discipline.  These two qualities are the backbone of success in whatever you do, so developing them means taking giant steps toward your full potential.

If you have questions, email me at [email protected]  I’d love to help if I can, so don’t hesitate.

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How to buy your own island

The bay less travelled
The bay less travelled

How to buy your own island

Samantha didn’t start out with a goal of owning her own island in the South Pacific.   In fact, the thought never occurred to her.  The road less travelled has always lured her off the more beaten paths of life.  And more than once, she’s found herself traveling a road that she had to build herself.

That’s how she ended up in remarkably beautiful but remote third world hell-hole, or perhaps a tropical paradise, depending on how you define the terms.

It was gold fever that first attracted her to the area that she’s asked me not to name.  She’d been living in a Central American jungle, working with investors to build a unique resort in an undeveloped part of Costa Rica when an American expat told about a South Pacific island where gold seemed plentiful. He also told her that the main city was a “third world hell-hole”.

On the dubious recommendation of a fellow she didn’t know and had only met once, Sam made her way to the small archipelago and it’s hell-hole capital.  Remarkably, she found that the stranger’s description was accurate, as far as it went, including the important detail that gold was plentiful.

Even, or perhaps especially, in the third world, it is difficult to convince owners to part with  their gold.  After some expensive missteps, though, Sam found some creative ways to purchase gold from the locals under conditions that were profitable both to her and to them.  She soon found herself earning 5 and 6 figures per month in an economy where that sort of money put her in an unusual category.

It also afforded her the ability to forge unusual relationships with the locals, who don’t welcome strangers graciously under most circumstances.   Sam’s toughness and tenacity, tempered by compassion and charm, earned her the respect and admiration of a small group of the locally influential community.

Sam has asked me not to use her real name, or to provide details of her location or circumstances, since to do so could put her at risk.  Her story, though, is riveting and even a succinct telling of it would rival the length of War and Peace.  She’s taken great risks, but reaped great rewards, including the ability to purchase her own private island in a serene and lovely setting.

Private island in the South Pacific
Private island in the South Pacific

Sam doesn’t have any special skills or education that opened up these opportunities.  More than any other single factor that transformed her from a middle school teacher in a small northern town to a precious metals magnate and private island owner in the South Pacific is her willingness to take risks.  Big ones, with huge upsides, and her very life on the downside.

She’s taken a road that few of would dare to tread.  A road not just less traveled, but nearly deserted.  I don’t include her story her as a way of recommending that you follow in her footsteps, but only to remind both of us that there are as practically as many possible lifestyles as there are people on the planet.

You don’t have to stay in a job or career that you don’t enjoy, nor do you have to live in a country or climate that doesn’t suit you.  Opportunities are literally around every corner.  To see them, you need a different focus than most people have.

Our newsletter will help you to open your eyes to the opportunities around you, and will inspire you to do more with your life than you ever dreamed you could.  Use the link below to sign up, and we’ll deliver it to you once a week, or as often as we have valuable updates and insights to share.


 

 

Make More Money – Have More Freedom

The ultimate green thumb
The ultimate green thumb

Selling Time

alarm_clockMost of us trade large blocks of our time for money.  That’s the essence of the rat race, and why so many of  us feel like we’re hamsters running on a wheel.  We work 40 or 50 hours a week for the privilege of relaxing for a few hours on the weekend, only to climb back in the wheel on Monday morning.  That’s why fully 70 percent of Americans are unhappy with their work.

Many people have found creative ways to leverage their time, so that rather than only being paid once for the hour they work today, they’ll make money on that same hour tomorrow, and the day after, and the week after that long into the future.

Creating a product that can be sold more than once hasn’t really been an option for the vast majority of people until we entered the digital age.

There are as many ways to leverage your time as there are individuals.  Most people will never figure out even one of them.  They’ll be stuck selling time with only a modest hope of a future return in the form of retirement payments that will be too meager to support them.

DON’T let another day go buy without formulating a plan to leverage your time by selling something else.  Following are five ways that you can use your time to create something that can be sold over and over.

Five Products You Can Make Once and Sell Over and Over

  1.  An eBook.  Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and many other platforms and distributors have made self-publishing a literal breeze.  If you’ve always thought you have a book in you, there could be no better time than now to begin writing it.  I’ll have guidance on the entire process later, but if it’s something that interests you, check out what Steve Scott has to say about the subject here.
  2. A course.  The MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) sites like Udemy and iTunes U can host your course and manage the sale, promotion, and distribution of it.  If you have a unique skill set, a musical talent that can be taught, or a new way of making lawn furniture, you may have the basis  for an online course.  Start at Udemy.com to see what other’s are doing, then check out Nick Loper’s article here
  3. A smartphone app.  Don’t dismiss this because of the technical difficulties.  If you have an idea, you can find a developer to produce the app.   If you’d like a little inspiration, read the story of Nick D’Aloisio who’s made millions on smartphone apps as a teenager.
  4. An information product that’s sold by affiliate networks.  This could be a video series that teaches muscle building or gourmet cooking or car washing fundraisers.   Clickbank.com is a good place to see what sorts of products others are selling.  The list is incredible, and once you’ve developed your product, armies of affiliate marketers will take it to the streets of the worldwide web to market it mercilessly.
  5. Software.  This may again seem daunting if you have no coding skills.  But many successful software sellers don’t have those skills either.  What they have instead is creativity, and the ability to find software solutions to common problems.  They then partner with or pay software developers to craft the product.  Once it’s done and debugged, a software product can be sold and resold, with upgrades as needed.  See what Dane Maxwell told Pat Flynn about his successes with software and the techniques he uses to find valuable markets here. 

It’s entirely possible that you will create a digital product, a book, an app, or a course, and that it won’t sell well.  You might find that your sales revenue doesn’t cover your production costs.  Many of our best efforts fail.  But some succeed, and sometimes beyond our best expectations.

Don’t let the fear of success stop you, or even slow you down.  The potential reward of spending more of your time doing what you love vs. making other people wealthy.  Taking action on your own behalf is what sets the financially liberated apart from wage slaves.

Yes, it will take time to write a book, or develop an app.  Time that you might have spent with friends, or posting on Facebook, or snow boarding, or hiking, or watching television.  But if you’re willing to do right now what others are not willing to do, you’ll be able to do later what most people only dream of doing but will never be able to afford

Investing your time now for a future reward is the main ingredient to breaking free of the financial bondage that keeps so many of us enslaved.   Start today to create the future that you want to live in.

Disruptive Technologies

Disruptive Technologies
Disruptive Technologies

Disruptive technologies will shape the future

If you’ve read our post on What Comes Next, you already know we are in an era of extraordinary social, technological, and economic changes.  In fact, the fabric of our society is undergoing an incredible transformation, one that humankind hasn’t witnessed in recorded history.

If you’re not familiar with the term “disruptive technology”, you need to read about it.  The term was coined in the book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in 1997.  .  By his definitions, sustaining technologies are those in common use that are being improved and refined more or less continually, for example typewriters before the introduction of word processors.  Disruptive technologies are those that are initially not widely applied, but end up supplanting sustaining technologies with exponential improvements in performance and production.  An example would be computer and word processing technology that replaced typewriters.

As the Technological Age comes into its own, we can expect to see a tsunami of disruptive technologies surge into the culture and the economy.  Examples of currently recognized disruptive technologies include genome mapping, mobile internet, 3D printing, and advanced robotics.  And we mustn’t forget self-driving vehicles, which seem to be bearing down on us at breakneck speed.  The total economic impact of just these 14 technologies could be more than $14 trillion per year by 2025.

For perspective, the steam power was a disruptive technology.  Whole industries grew up around it, both to manufacture and maintain steam engines.  Skilled steam mechanics were in demand.  When the internal combustion engine burst onto the scene, the manufacturing facilities that produced steam engines became obsolete very quickly, and the mechanics that were in demand when steam was the primary power source suddenly found that their skills weren’t useful in maintaining and repairing the new motors.  A radical economic shift ensued.

Because today’s economies are so much larger and far more interconnected and interdependent, disruptive technologies have much bigger impacts.  More workers are either displaced, replaced, or retrained, and whole economic sectors can be left in tatters.  Remember travel agents?  Computer and internet technologies devastated that economic sector in the space of about 5 years.

Preparing for technological change

Over the next 10 years, disruptive technologies will be responsible for more job losses in America than an economic depression.   Economists estimate that 20 million of todays jobs will no longer exist in 2025.  That’s just 9 years from now.

It is inevitable that each of us will be affected by this onrushing techno flood.  Some of the changes will include medical breakthroughs that extend and improve the quality of life for many of us.  Some will allow us to have more freedom than ever to pursue new opportunities and more free time to enjoy our favorite pursuits.  Unfortunately, some of these technologies will result in remarkable economic displacement as employers and employees are unprepared for lightening fast and seismic changes in demand for products and services.

Now is the time to take a serious look at your job or career.  Does it have longevity given what you know about technological advances?  This is not necessarily an easy question to answer, unless you are a commercial driver.  If that’s the case, you may have between 5 and 10 years before your job is either eliminated or your services are in much lower demand.

Nearly every job that requires repetitive action, even action that requires great dexterity and skill, is at risk from automated replacements in the next few years.  A friend that works in management for a large retail department store has frequently lamented the difficulty their bakery departments have in finding and keeping good employees, particularly cake decorators.  The corporation may now be months away from replacing several existing positions with robotic equipment that will increase their production with far fewer employees at less cost.  The problem for the company is deciding when purchase the new equipment since the technology is improving so quickly that the quality, efficiency, and cost could be much more attractive even within the next few months.

Before you lament the jobs that will be lost from technological improvements, you should also consider what will be gained:  New jobs will be created, although obviously far fewer than those that are lost.  The costs of manufacturing will be far less, which had darn well better translate to lower product costs.  And automated, precision manufacturing should improve the quality of just about any product you can imagine.

Even though predicting exactly how and when disruptive and improved sustainable technologies will impact your job or your career, or your viability as a job candidate in the future is extraordinarily difficult, there are some practical steps you can take now that will help you to make the transition from todays economic reality to the onrushing future.

  1.  Leverage your earning potential to it’s highest level as soon as possible.  The means if you’re not working for the highest paying firm in the highest paying position for which you’re qualified, you should start taking steps in that direction now.  In 2016 and beyond, there is no such thing as a bond of loyalty between employers and employees.  CEOs, corporate boards, shareholders, and business owners act in their own financial best interest, which is only rational.  You must do the same.   If that means negotiating for a wage, or finding an employer that will pay you more, do it.
  2. Make yourself the most valuable employee that you can be.  If that doesn’t appeal to you because you know that means longer hours and harder work, then you’re probably in the wrong job anyway.  If you have plenty of savings, and you’re confident you can survive a lengthy period without the income from your job, then feel free to ignore this advice. Otherwise, be the employee you’d like to hire if and when you own your own business.
  3. Cut your expenses and save every penny that you can.   It may mean foregoing gratification now, but technology is improving so quickly that the things you’ll be able to buy in five years will likely be cheaper and far more capable than the ones you can buy now.  Mainly, though, as optimistic as I am about the future, there is no question that there are going to be some painful weeks, months, or years of transition.   Change means uncertainty, and markets don’t respond well to uncertainty.
  4. Stay abreast of changes that may affect your job, industry, or field of expertise.  If your position could be automated, learn all you can about the companies that build the robots or systems that may replace you.  You might be better off working for them.  Familiarize yourself with Google Alerts, and set up an alert for new technological and other developments that may affect your job.  Share them with management, because information is still a valuable currency.
  5. Take advantage of massive open online courses, or MOOCs.  These include sites like Udemy which allow you to take classes in pretty much any subject you can imagine.  You need to use a little discernment when selecting the courses, but you can dramatically expand your knowledge and skill base with MOOCs, and the cost is far less than university or even community college course work.  And many of the MOOC courses offer more relevant and marketable skills than traditional colleges which are often juggernauts that aren’t agile enough to respond to changing technologies within a useful timeframe.
  6. Find a source of side income.  Check the link for some ideas to get you started.  There has never been an easier time to do this, since you can offer your services on sites like fiverr.com, freelance.com, glance.com, craigslist, and many more.   This maybe the most important of the steps you can take to secure your income, and may be exactly the transition to freedom that you’ve been looking for.  For ideas and instruction on developing side income streams, read more here.

 

 

 

What comes next

Look who's here
Look who’s here..

The shifting sands of the modern job market

Carrier, an American manufacturer of HVAC equipment, just announced that they’re moving their Indianapolis, Indiana manufacturing operations to Mexico in the next year and a half.   Carrier’s senior management assured the 1400 workers that are going to lose their jobs that the decision to relocate is purely  economic, not personal.

In January of this year, WestRock Co. announced it’s plans to permanently close its Newberg, Oregon paper mill.  Only 210 employees will lose their jobs and careers, so the news didn’t receive national attention.

These stories, and many more like them, are becoming all too common.  Corporations and manufacturing facilities are more mobile than ever.  International trade agreements are creating  economic opportunities for corporations that require them to take advantage of lower labor and production costs, or to risk failure and collapse when they can’t compete with more aggressive firms that do take advantage of cost savings.

I recently heard the story of an Oregon man that’s been a small to medium sized business owner for most of his life.  His businesses have employed hundreds of Oregonians for many years.  He’s just now completing a new manufacturing facility that is fully automated.  It will require only 2 full-time employees to achieve the same level of productivity that formerly required 50 employees.  The owner has told associates that he’s vastly relieved to be less reliant on a large work force at this new facility and that his long term plan is to automate all of his operations so that he can reduce his human workforce even further.

Amazon has been a leader in automating their warehouse and shipping facilities.  In fact, many new automation technologies have been developed just for Amazon.  By relying more heavily on automation and less on employees, Amazon has reduced their unit costs and increased their efficiency, making it very difficult to effectively compete.

All of this is the tip of a very big iceberg that the American job market has already struck.  We’ve just begun to feel the brunt of the impact.  There aren’t enough lifeboats to save us all.  If you’re going to survive in the choppy waters of the new economic reality, you’re going to have to think fast, and be more creative that you  ever thought you could be.

While I know it’s scary to feel that we’re being cast adrift with no hope of rescue, we’re in a far better situation that the passengers on the Titanic.  For one thing, we’re much closer to a New World of opportunity that will open up possibilities that humans haven’t even dared to dream of before this moment in history.

The only constant is change

The Information Age is behind us.  We are now entering the Technological Age.  Information is still a vital part of our economy, but the real driving force right now is the flood of new technologies that are changing everything from how medicine is practiced to how we travel to how we produce our manufactured goods.

Because technology, particularly automation and robotics, is replacing people in too many employment sectors to count, all of our plans for the future HAVE to take these looming changes into account as we plan for tomorrow.  Planning for next year is going to be even more complicated.

The one thing we can say with certainty is that as changes take place in the world around us, we as individuals must either be willing and able to change along with the world, and we’d better be able to change as quickly as markets are changing around us if we want to thrive as this new era unfolds.

In their book Becoming Generation Flux: Why Traditional Career Planning is Dead, Miles Anthony and Mathew Wolf admonish their readers to become flexible, and to be prepared to change jobs frequently in order to stay apace with the Technological Age.  This is great advice.  The old model of finding a stable company and staying on as a lifelong, loyal employee secure in your golden handcuffs is long gone.  As Carrier proved to their Indianapolis employees, big employers don’t have loyalty to anything other than their bottom line.

At this point, I want to caution you (and me too) against becoming embittered or angry out of the sense that any of this is unfair.  Opportunities abound, and you can and should make decisions that are in your own best interest, just like corporate CEOs and shareholders do.  The fact is that we’ve become far too dependent on others to secure our financial futures.  In the Technological Age, you will have more opportunities than our parents and grandparents could have imagined.

But you will have to be flexible.  You will have to be willing to learn new skills and absorb new technologies.  Rather than the complacency that characterized previous generations, we’re all going to have to be vigilant in watching the changes around us, and adapting to them as they come.

It will be exciting, and it can be immensely rewarding.  You’re living at a time that most of humanity has longed for.  Make up your mind right now that you’re going to make the very most of it.

 

 

Can you love your work?

freedom and independence road signs

Are you happy at work?

If you have a full time job, you spend more time working than pretty much anything else you do other than sleeping.  Having a sense of purpose and fulfillment in our work, along with co-workers whose company we enjoy and a workplace that is comfortable and inviting are the ideals that we hope for when we set out to find employment.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t find those things.  A 2013 Gallup poll found that about 52% of Americans find little or no fulfillment in their jobs.    Another 18% actively dislike their jobs, workplaces, coworkers and/or bosses.  The main reason that so many employees give for their discontent is their supervisors.  Gallup estimates that nearly half a trillion dollars, or nearly 3% of GDP, is wasted annually just because bad or ineffective managers are creating tension and malcontent in their workplaces.

If there’s any good news, it’s that 30% of working Americans  actually enjoy their work and find some fulfillment in it.     These workers expressed a sense of connection with their employers and their jobs, unlike the majority of unhappy employees.

We tend to believe that professionals all love their work while skilled and unskilled laborers are nearly all malcontents.  The opposite is true.  Blue collar workers in the UK tend to be significantly happier with their work than white collar workers by a comfortable margin.   According to a survey conducted in 2004, skilled blue collar workers are far happier in their work than professionals.  The survey showed that even a much larger salary does nothing to guarantee workplace fulfillment.  The highest level of job satisfaction amongst blue collar workers was for “aid workers”, 40% of whom claimed to be happy in their work.  Only 14% of research scientists made the same claim.

If you’re working and unhappy now, or hoping to find a job that you’ll be happy with, these are not encouraging signs.  Don’t be discouraged, though.  There are at least 2 silver linings in all of this.  First, if you choose a career that focuses on helping others, you’re much more likely to find happiness in your work regardless of the working conditions.  Second, if you choose a white collar career and find that you’re making tons of money but are miserable anyway, you’ll find lots of company.  Misery loves that, right?

The joy of ownership

And now for the good news.

By sharp contrast to the polling data on employee contentment, a recent survey of small business owners found that fully 91% expressed at least contentment with their work, with 55% claiming to be extremely happy with it.

The survey’s only criteria was that the business owners employed 2o people or less.  As with he Gallup survey of employees, the results weren’t broken out by the types of business.  Whether we can infer that business owner’s happiness declines as the number employees rises above 20 is a matter of speculation, but from my own experience there’s a huge direct correlation.  We’ll save that for another day.

These results are pretty startling, although they’re in line with what I’ve observed based on the employees and small business owners that I have known.  The size of the disparity is the surprising part, as is the fact that blue collar work seems to be more satisfying than white collar work.

If you’re looking for a job, or planning for a career, this survey of small business owners should be flashing in your brain like a neon sign.  If the Gallup data is accurate, and you pursue a job or a career that entails working for a salary,  you’re reasonably likely to be unhappy in your work.  And since your life outside of work can’t help but be shaped by the more than 2000 hours you spend each at your job, it’s entirely possible that the job or career you’re considering could make your a great deal of you life dull and difficult.

Small business ownership is not for everyone.  But because of the dramatic shifts in our economy, and the crazy pace of technological change, there are new, uncharted opportunities opening up everyday day.  Stay tuned as we explore them.

A tsunami of change is coming

Plan to follow or follow a plan
Plan to follow or follow a plan

 

Changes: Turn and Face the Strange

The world is hurtling into uncharted territory.  Technology is advancing too quickly to track, and the impact on our lives and careers is going to be incalculable but enormous.

Economists and trends analysts are projecting that over 5 million jobs in the US will be taken over by robots or other automation in just 4 years. And that’s only the beginning.   According to one study, up to 47 percent of the existing 138 million jobs in America will be lost due to technological advances in the years beyond 2020.

Hopefully, you find this news as exciting as I do.   You SHOULD find it exciting, even if, or maybe ESPECIALLY if,  your current job is included in the 47 percent.   The excitement lies not in the fact that you may be losing your job, although that could be part of it.  What is truly thrilling is that we are on the cusp of a seismic technological and economic shift that will bring with it a new world of opportunities that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago.  Be patient, because I’m going to get back to this in a few paragraphs.

Meanwhile, there will be few industries and economic sectors that won’t affected.  The pace of change is already overwhelming the abilities of government, industry, and education to adjust.  That means it’s up to us to decide how these changes are going to impact us, and whether we’re going to let this wave roll over us, or we’re going to wax up our boards and ride it to the beach.

Shrinking Wages

Before we get back to the looming wave of opportunities, here’s some historical perspective.  The average minimum wage in the US reached its highest level in history in 1968 at $1.60 per hour.  This would be the equivalent of $10.86 per hour in 2015.  In 2016, the average minimum wage is $7.25, or around $1.00 per hour in 1968 dollars.  So real wages and buying power have declined significantly in the last 35 years.

In the early 1980s, when I entered the job market, manufacturing jobs were plentiful.  I didn’t know anyone who worked for minimum wage.  I earned nearly $18 per hour working a night  shift at a plywood mill.  Gasoline cost around $1 per gallon, and my nearly new Toyota pickup cost less than $5000.

As a single wage earner, I had an enormous amount of disposable income.   In fact, using an inflation calculator, I would need to make over $50 per hour in 2015 dollars to match the buying power that I had in the 1980s.  According to government figures, only about 20 percent of Americans are making an equivalent income today, including well educated professionals.

I’ll discuss the reasons for this decline in real wages, and the impacts it’s had on America’s middle class.   For now, what you should probably take away from all of this is that our political leadership has shifted relatively evenly between both political parties while our real incomes were plummeting.  And while we may not be able to say that one party or the other made it particularly worse, we can say that neither party has made it better.  In other words, don’t expect government to make your life better.

Is College the Answer?

There is no question that the formulas that once created middle class lifestyles won’t work today.  If you have a college degree, you may have noticed that it was remarkably expensive, and that you’ll be paying for it for several years.  If you don’t have a college degree, you need to be cautious before you consider getting one.

I finished my B.S. degree in geology in the mid-1980s.  I chose the field of geology for several reasons.  First, my father and grandfather had both worked in the oil field.  My dad was a driller, and eventually left the oil field to become a water well driller.  He had no formal education, but was a very curious man.  He was always bringing home rocks and fossils that he’d found in his drill cuttings, and would study them endlessly.  Also, Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted in 1981, at a time when I’d all but given up on finding a suitable college major.  That eruption was a seminal event in many respects, but for me it ignited a deep curiosity about the secrets of the earth’s interior.  In the end, though, I couldn’t imagine a professional career that kept me chained to a desk.  Geologists did field work, and that appealed to me immensely.

These were probably not the best criteria for choosing a college major, but it was the basis for a career that I loved.  I did spend time in the field, and I spent time chained to various desks.  It was a good balance, in the end.  And it eventually paid pretty well.

I know that many of my class mates that graduated with degrees in geology never used their degrees, at least not in careers in the earth sciences.  Five years or so after I graduated, I ran into one of them that was working in a shoe store.  He told me he really had no interest in pursuing a geology career.  I was stunned to think that someone would invest the time and money to get a degree in a particular science and not use it.  Such is life.

The point is that a college degree that you can afford and that forms the basis for a career path that you’re pretty certain you want to pursue is a very good answer.  But in choosing the career and the degree, you’ve got to first know whether the jobs in your chosen career are among the 47 percent of jobs that are slated for deptruciont by the building tsunami of automation and artificial intelligence that is building just below the horizon.  This will take some research, and not just Google research .  You will actually need to talk at length to people that are currently working in your chosen field, and more than just one.

If you don’t have a very specific career in mind, but want to go to college for the experience or just to get a liberal arts degree that you don’t plan to use, I don’t recommend it unless you have a lot of extra money lying around.  And even then, I’d strongly caution you against it.

There are at least 3 very good reasons to be very cautious about attending a college or university.  The first is the obvious one that we’ve already covered – unless you know with a high level of certainty that the career path you’re pursuing through your planned studies will not be among the 47% of jobs that are likely to be eliminated in the coming years, going into student loan debt to get a degree will leave you with the debt and little else.

The second reason to be skeptical about getting a degree, even in a technical field that has good long term prospects is that many colleges and universities are not keeping up with changes that are taking place within many industries at light speed.  A friend that works as a graphic designer in a multinational firm was hired by the firm after he’d taken only a few classes at a technical school.  His facility with graphic design came from a combination of independent learning and native ability.  His success in landing his job was purely the result of his portfolio and his persistence with the head of the department that employed him.  He’s thrived in his position because of his passion for his art, and his ability to consistently exceed his employers expectations.  His firm provides financial support to a local university, and while they participate in their career planning, his employer has told him in confidence that they won’t consider hiring graduates from the university’s graphics programs because the university’s teaching methods and the technologies their students are mastering at 5 to 10 years behind what is now standard in the industry.  The university is producing graduates with outdated skillets, and they don’t even know it.

The third reason is that even in STEM degree programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) where graduates are earning the highest salaries in entry-level positions in their fields, the pay scales are still below the actual buying power that I was earning as an unskilled laborer 35 years ago.  There is also no question that the development of artificial intelligence will reduce the numbers of these positions.   My nephew got a degree in information technology.  He graduated in the early ’90s when IT was a red-hot field.  He immediately got a great job with a tech giant in silicon valley, had great pay, awesome working conditions, great benefits, and he loved the work.  Within five years, his position was eliminated because all the work in his division had been outsourced to India, a move that saved the company tens of millions of dollars, but dramatically reduced their domestic work force.  When he searched for a similar position, he learned that the move to outsource positions like his was more or less industry wide.  He had to completely change career paths, which entailed getting a second degree in an unrelated field.   This was not an outcome that he could have predicted, but it is a cautionary tale.  The BRICS are producing very well educated, competent, enthusiastic STEM degree holders that will work for a fraction of what an American can.   The trend to replace Americans with both skilled and unskilled BRIC and other workers with much lower salary requirements is still trending.  Meanwhile, BRICs are producing far more graduates with both graduate and undergraduate STEM degrees, so these are going to be very competitive fields.  I

I’ll delve more deeply into how we can make the best choices to integrate education and career without risking years of wasted time, and an enormous debt load.  You won’t want to miss it.  For now, I mentioned at the beginning of this article that this is an exciting time.  I’ve written far more about why it’s challenging then why it’s exciting.   Opportunities worth seizing are rarely handed out for free, and the opportunities that the rapidly changing technical and economic landscape is presenting are no exception.

But compared to the last huge shifts in economic and social paradigms, like perhaps the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, the huge opportunities today are more widely available, even to the least prosperous among us, than any historic parallels.  The fact that there are countless millions of people using the internet to facilitate their incomes, either through telecommuting or e-commerce of one sort or another is a wholly unprecedented development since it provides a source of income that does not depend on your geography, and significantly reduces the advantages that wealthy corporations have always enjoyed over smaller competitors.

There are plenty more reasons to be thrilled with the brave new world we’re entering, and we’re going to thoroughly explore them.  Stay tuned.