The writing is on the wall.
Contractors, apprenticeships, freelance workers — going up.
Dedicated, hardworking, head-nodders — going down.
What does that mean:
This means creativity and will are going to be valued more than effort or time. Your ideas, your thoughts, your dreams, and your goals will be your currency.
So if there’s no hope of a steady job, what will we do in the future?
It’s a great question, one which I think boils down to three principles, with none of them involving a nice resume or the ability to wow a stranger in a job interview.
1) Build your ideal environment to create
“3 am is the hour of writers, painters, poets, musicians, silence seekers.”
My best example of this is a friend who wanted to write a novel many years ago. When I encouraged him to do so along with me, he refused. He didn’t want to match my timeline. He didn’t want to “tarnish the purity of the story by rushing it out.”
You probably already know the punchline — he has still not written Chapter 1.
This did not necessarily happen because he is lazy or unfocused. To be honest, he is neither. It happened because he did not build his particular environment to accomplish his dream. He did not carve out time in the day to write. He never removed the outline for the story from his mind. He never set deadlines. He did not find a way to stay accountable for his writing.
Humans respond and adapt to their environment, not the other way around. When we have the conditions to grow, to create, to succeed, we often will. The good news is, we have the ability to manipulate our environment. This happens not through luck or a series of nice bosses, but through intentional actions over time.
My friend actually did build his own environment. It just wasn’t an environment which included his yet-to-be-written book. Life got busy. His interests changed. He needed to pay rent.
You may have gone through a similar situation. We are living in the loudest, fastest, busiest period of human history. Sometimes, it seems impossible to get through the day, much less move forward on your creative goals. The world is changing every second, and the stimuli we react to are ever-changing.
We all adapt to our environment.
Who will build yours?
2) Find and solve problems
From the dawn of time, humans have solved problems.
In the future, we will continue to solve problems, even if that problem is “oh no, the robots have outsmarted us: what should we do??”
Problem solving is inherently human. Early man had to solve the problem of an angry hairy beast sprinting towards him. If he did not solve that problem, his tribe had to solve a problem of where to put a body. As we have grown, the problems we’ve found and solved have evolved along with us :
- “Thousands of people are dying and we don’t know why,”
- “Species are going extinct, what can we do about that?”
- “We really like Cheeze It’s, but we’d also like a not-as-good version.”
Ironically, as we continued to solve problems and make our lives more comfortable, we became the machines. With the start of the industrial revolution, we traded our critical thinking skills for following orders. We traded our autonomy for steady income.
There is no sense in laying the blame. There is no need to cast damnation. That fact simply is. It happened.
Humans became what we are through the systematic discovery and elimination of problems. Though we may have forgotten that for a while, a return to that philosophy is necessary and inevitable, not just for those who own businesses, but for everyone.
It’s not only solving problems which matters, though. It’s communicating that solution. When a solution happens without salesmanship, the creative genius becomes the starving artist.
I hate when that happens. Clearly the idea generator is the person with an incredible mind, the person with impeccable instincts, the person uniquely in tune with themselves, they are unable to make the exchange and secure the reward they deserve.
One thing machines cannot do (yet) is generate ideas. This means creative people hold the keys to the future.
You know the saying: “time is money?”
That won’t be true in a few years. Most of the time-based tasks we find annoying will be automated.
Soon the phrase will be: “ideas are money.”
Often lots of it.
3) Sell your art
The average yearly salary for a single person in America is roughly $35,000, according to USA Today. Let’s invent an imaginary scenario where you work 40 years for a few different companies. You get some promotions along the way because you are a bright person who works very hard.
We’ll say your lifetime total of earning is:
Here’s an interesting question to ask yourself:
Where is my 2 millionth dollar?
And this, I think, is where selling your art comes into play.
Another activity which seems to be uniquely human is making art. Think about it for a moment. You are a part of the race which created the cello, drew on walls before there was paper, made drums from animal skins, and sang songs before they had words to express how they felt.
All cards on the table — I don’t believe you can live a full life with only these first two options. I believe you must sell something of your own in order to fully experience the new world.
Maybe you think “I’m not an artist. I can’t sell art.”
That’s okay. I used to think that too. One day, I started thinking of art a different way:
Art is telling your story by any means necessary.
I take pictures of my dog as he begs me for ice cream — that’s art. I dance clumsily in my kitchen when my wife’s favorite song comes on — that’s art. I describe to readers how my obnoxious cat curls up in the laundry I just folded — that’s art.
Art is also more than just one area of expertise. Being Michael Jordan is hard. Few people have the discipline to go that deep in one pool. Instead, combining your interests, experiences, and talent into something which is undeniably you is a good way to make your art unique and powerful.
Art is important for a couple of reasons.
First, it fills the human experience. We have two halves of a brain for a reason. We must access them both in order to taste all this life has to offer.
Second, art is an item of tangible value. She who makes it deserves to be compensated.
I think maybe we forget this. More specifically, I think we fail to realize our art can be sold. Although we systematically line up for other people’s unique work, our own creative genius seldom sees the light of day.
My sister-in-law makes custom quilts. That’s art, she could sell it. A close friend collects music. He often gives reviews of this music to any and everyone who will listen. That’s art, he could sell it (or at least start a blog and run advertisements)
Is art all about making money? No, of course not. Art is all about art. But there is no reason you can’t earn at least an auxiliary income from what you would be doing anyway.
These three things — creating an environment to execute your ideas, finding and solving problems, and selling your art — will be your compass in the new world. Together, they will point you toward your true north.
What is your true north? I have no idea.
Maybe it’s growing within the job you already have.
Maybe it’s transitioning to a freelancing career.
Maybe it’s earning an extra $1,000 — $5,000 to pay off some debts.
Maybe it’s simply finding more time to do the things you love.
Whatever it is, you can make it happen. You are powerful. You are infinite. You are ready to become unstoppable.