This is Digest: A focused update on an undefined topic of my choosing. Published almost every Friday.
Ours is an economy in transition. From the work we do, to the place we work, to how we get our coffee, the music we listen to and the shows we watch, we’re redefining ownership and success to place an emphasis on freedom, choice, and well-being over monetary gain and lifestyles of excess.
So long sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Hello sex, yoga-or-something, and that-new-music-I-found-on-my-friend’s-Rdio-profile. (Something tells me the “sex” part will always be part of that equation, though apparently Japan thinks otherwise.)
So long home in the ‘burbs, with a white picket fence, a Sam’s Club membership, three kids and a golden retriever. Hello two-bedroom apartment, weekly trips to the farmer’s market, maybe a kid or two and a poodle-mix from a rescue.
Neither are quite as catchy, I know, but it’s who we are.
The Wolf of Wall Street may have been an incredible story, but nothing about that lifestyle actually appealed to me. The 80+ hour workweeks, popping quaaludes and binge-drinking just to get through the day, only to go home and have nothing of value to offer your family—all in the name of so-called “success.”
So the question for me isn’t whether or not our economy is in transition, but what we’re ultimately in transition to. After all, capitalism means better decisions don’t always mean a more profitable business. There’s a reason CVS got backlash for deciding not to sell cigarettes, even though cigarettes are responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the US alone: it will hurt their bottom line.
And capitalism, up to this point,
See, the industrial economy in America had an easily identifiable end game: factories, salaries, 401k’s.
The start-up economy—whether by happy accident, or design—often has none of those things. Instead it’s every man for himself. Overlaps happen organically. Traditional organizational structures and systems work well, and people collaborate with one another… until they don’t.
That’s fine: Most of us have the imagination and the work ethic to handle it. And, now that an estimated 33-ish percent of the US considers themselves “freelance,” or “temp,” it’s obvious we’ve taken full responsibility of our situation.
But what’s the goal?
Is stability in the cards in the start-up economy?
Is stability even something we’re after?
Or are we just looking to constantly prove everybody wrong with the next big idea, hopping from idea to idea, job to job, start-up to start-up?
Are we going to turn 40 and wonder how we’re going to survive without a steady income, because the new young guns have come in and hijacked the economy we built on a foundation of quicksand? As brilliant as we are, not all of us can be Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Barack Obama; not all of us will be millionaires.
And while, as I mentioned, I know fame and fortune aren’t the end-goal, I think figuring out what the long game is in this economy we’re building is just as important as making sure you land your next gig to pay next month’s rent.
I know we’re making the world a better place.
I know we’re making better decisions when it comes to health, wellness and lifestyle.
I’m excited about the general direction we’re headed in.
But I can’t pretend I’m not concerned we might not have a goal.
Here are some articles for you to read this weekend. Enjoy:
‘How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth‘, by Sara Horowitz for Co.Exist
Lots of good stuff here:
As the availability of the traditional 40-hour-a-week job wanes, so does its appeal. Who wants to “clock-out” at the end of the day when you can dictate your own schedule?
Many freelancers rightly see the standard workweek as a prison of the past. Managing your own time isn’t just rewarding–it’s practical and efficient. Parents don’t have to “leave early” to pick up their kids. The idea of “killing time” until the clock strikes 5:00 becomes obsolete when that time is chiefly your own.
Time is a new currency, and successful freelancers manage, save, and spend it wisely.
Independent workers make up a third of the workforce. By 2020, just six years from now, 40% of Americans will be working as freelancers, contractors, and temps. Some lament this historic shift away from salaried, full-time employment–but whether the future of work is a step forward or backward is up to America’s burgeoning independent workforce.
Freelancers are shaping the new economy. As flexible schedules and ubiquitous communication become the norm, the work-life balance that we’ve always struggled for is becoming achievable. As community and teamwork become more necessary than ever to thrive, the lonely, closed-off cubicle will make way for meaningful collaboration. And as the demand for healthy food and workspaces increases, industry will increasingly connect corporate profits and social good.
‘Outside the Box: Netflix and the Future of Television‘, by Ken Auletta for The New Yorker
This isn’t something I would usually share—and it’s actually hidden behind a pay wall, so you can’t access it unless you subscribe to the New Yorker. But I think it offers a unique perspective on how television is really changing to match user preferences for control over their experience, and our desire for 15 seconds of fame.
Television today faces two major threats. The first is to the advertising model. About fifty per cent of viewing households use a digital video recorder. Between half to two-thirds of those households skip the ads…
The second threat is existential. Starting around 2008, viewers could stream video services through the television only by attaching another device, such as a DVD player, an Xbox, a Nintendo Wii, or an AppleTV. […] As consumers grow more aware of such options, they are bound to ask why they bother subscribing to cable television.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2012, AwesomenessTV ran a promotion asking subscribers, “Do you want to be the next YouTube star?” Two hundred thousand teenagers responded, and nearly half of them started their own YouTube channels, attracting sixty million unique monthly visitors. Today, eighty-five thousand kids have channels on AwesomenessTV, and thirty-one million teens and tweens have visited the site. “When you speak to kids, the No. 1 thing they want is to be famous,” Robbins said. “They don’t even know for what.”
“There’s a reason why people now talk about this as the golden age of the scripted drama,” Michael Lynton, the C.E.O of Sony Entertainment, told me. “You can write a character that grows over the course of thirteen hours of television. That’s more attractive than a two-hour movie.” The opportunities have enticed strong writers, directors, and actors. “What’s happened as a result of this is a flourishing of an entirely new kind of television.”
‘President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address‘, via The White House
You can write off politics, but don’t write off policy—that’s what ultimately shapes our lives. Obama spent a lot of time talking about this new economy in his State of the Union address: everything from needing to invest more in tech, to how the Affordable Care Act makes healthcare more affordable for people who don’t get it through their jobs. He even unveiled a new initiative called MyRA that allows people to invest directly with the US Treasury and see substantial returns on that investment. You don’t have to like him, but he’s doing a lot to aide this industrial-to-start-up transition. We may not see the effects of these changes for a few years, but I think it’s change we can believe in.
Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.
An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.
Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.
Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.
We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.
Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America.
A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.
That’s what health insurance reform is all about – the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.
Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.
More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.