First, a link from Sarah Hoyt:
Now, an excerpt from her post:
I don’t know what your talents are. My family is NOT normal – you knew
that, right? – so yesterday we spent time picking courses off a catalog,
and the gamut went from history to music, to art, to storytelling.
Activities and skills people are working on in my circle range from
editing to handy-manning (shut up you!) to building computers from
discards, to writing indie, to art, to all sorts of what used to be
called womanly crafts. Embroidery, crochet, knitting, calculus,
statistics, piano, languages, programming, baking, backyard gardening…
All of these will almost for sure have a value and allow you to make at
least some money. All of them are absorbing enough to keep the mind
from the down spiral.
Now, a little from me:
We all have skills/abilities/talents/whatever that we were endowed with or learned along the way. We are all certainly not equal in this manner, but we do all have some manner of things we are good at.
Rawles talks a lot about developing skills for a work from home type scenario, but his tend to be hands-on and low tech. Carpentry, Ranching, Gardening, Mechanics, Weaving/Sewing/Needlework, Metalworking (be it Blacksmithing or Fabricating at either ends of the spectrum), etc. Nothing wrong with those and they will certainly be needed. But I think that focusing only on skills like that is limiting yourself, to an extent.
Let's face it: things can not stay the same. Not for much longer; something has to give. What happens then? Will it be painful? Oh yes - I believe so, but not forever. But after the short-term pain, then what? What does the future look like?
I don't think that stays the same either.
How we live and work and communicate is certainly going to change over the next 10 years, and it will change in ways that are quite hard to fathom at the moment. Just like each decade was a stark technological contrast from the previous one (1990 v 1980 / 2010 v 1990 / etc.), the future will certainly be different.
Writing indie has helped me realize this more so than anything else I suppose - technology is creating opportunities for us to be more and more independent, even as the State (big "S") fights to make us more and more dependent. But with every passing day and every new advance, that genie gets harder and harder to put back in a bottle.
Most of the population is still focused on that old paradigm (the 9-5 or more realistically these days - the 6-5 x 6 days a week - even if it is spread over several, low-paying, part-time jobs), and they are suffering because of it. The way our fathers and grandfathers earned a living is dying folks. In the 40s and 50s it was noble to be a company man - to find a good company with a great pension system and stay with them for your entire career. I remember it being said in the 00s that if you didn't have 3 or 4 employers under your belt in the first several years of your career, you were limiting your earning potential. Now? in the 10s? Employers are dumping expensive, experienced old hats and squeezing the remainder of their personnel - or at best - bringing in some young kid with drive that can make up his lack of experience with long nights at the office.
I was asked the other day why I don't contribute to my company's stock plan (401k contributions are matched with company stock). I simply said, "I don't trust the market." but that's a half-truth. The rest of the story is, "I don't expect this company will be around in 40-50 years when (if?) I retire, so the company stock'll likely be worth nil.
I'm sorry, I'm rambling. So that's the old paradigm. What about the future?
Well, it can go 2 directions:
1. We all work for a centralized gov't/mega-corporations.
2. We are all contractors, so to speak.
Let me say that "ALL" is a blanket statement and there will always be exceptions. So let's say that "ALL" means 65-80% of the working population.
Let's address #1: I don't think this is sustainable and like I said before, the technology is out-pacing the government as we speak. And technology is accelerating.
#2: Let me explain what I mean. Just as technology is affording more opportunities for artists such as indie musicians and filmmakers (I mean, hate him or hate him, but Justin Beiber was discovered on Youtube. Follow me?) or writers (Amazon and Smashwords) or voice actors (ACX), or bloggers selling ad space on their site (I'm talking about you - ToR), it is also affording more opportunities for technical-minded people. I know a 25-ish Y.O. Geologist who just broke off from a major company and is now working jobs all across the Coast - by himself. Technology.
I think (hope?) that large, central governance is doomed to fail, at least in the future in my head. I believe we will revert back to a more local system. In my utopia - it's an Articles of Confederation system with most of the power focused at the state and county level. Probable? Probably NOT. What it will most likely be (in my scatter-brained mind) is a central governance that is utterly inefficient and impotent. It's there, and it hassles people a lot and ruins a bunch of lives, but communities develop that are more freedom oriented - and people flourish.
But this isn't some Greek city-state type of life. The technology is still there, so the possibilities are still endless for the individual. At least I hope.
So learn those old-world skills, like Rawles recommends. But learn computer programming, and still focus on the arts (if your the artsy type - 'cause let's face it, there were minstrels and jesters in the Dark Ages, so you might snag some sweet jester gig, who knows?), and continue to stay knowledgeable of developing technologies. Understanding how these technologies function, at the system level, will be critical to leveraging them. If you enjoy something enough and are passionate about it, you can probably package it and sell it to somebody (and probably a lot of somebodies) out there.
I remember back in like 2005 hearing this story about a reporter who ran across this goat herder in the hills of Afghanistan. Very austere place - I'm talking mountain-top village, stone-age stuff. So in the middle of this interview about the local comings and goings and American forces in the area, the dude pulls out a satellite smart-phone and executes a sell of some stocks half-way around the world. The reporter was utterly astonished. Was this guy the norm? Of course not, but he found a way to look beyond the realities of his lot in life and capitalize on a better future. I bet that same dude today has a butt-load of goats. Just sayin'.