For thousands of years, the main focus of mankind had been simply to survive. Putting food on the table, providing for the safety of our families, and keeping ourselves healthy have historically been the primary activities with which our ancestors occupied their time. Enjoyment of living and fulfillment of meaning were fleeting ideas and luxuries reserved for the few who were fortunate enough to find the external and/or internal conditions necessary to provide such fanciful perspectives.
For the last few hundred years, we’ve finally been enabled to start asking the question, “What does it look like to thrive?”
Humanity’s ability to create ‘tools’ has enabled recent generations to pursue enjoyment and fulfillment in ways that previous generations could only dream of, and it seems this freedom to pursue happiness is only getting stronger.
“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”– Buckminster Fuller
While there are many ideas surrounding the future of employment, in this article I want to bring 3 separate concepts into view that have helped me make sense of this seemingly overwhelming question.
The Rise of the Youpreneur
Before we get to a place in human history where nobody HAS to work and everyone simply gets to enjoy each day doing whatever they want, more and more of us are going to have to figure out how to maintain job security in the coming decades. In a world where information about ANY industry is freely available on the internet, the classic dynamic of maintaining a ‘competitive advantage’ really comes down to who has the best information.
It’s a known reality now that information is the new ‘currency’ fueling the world’s machine, yet so much of that information still needs to be interpreted and applied by individuals who know what do to with it. Examine just about any industry and you’ll undoubtedly find two major camps of people:
- Those who are inventing and embracing new technologies that will continue to keep them on the cutting edge of their industry
- Those who find these new technologies to be threatening, annoying, or unnecessary (a.k.a. Luddites)
These two camps of ‘workers’ have always existed and are nothing new to the social dynamics of humanity. But what the internet has made possible that no other generation has been able to take advantage of is the ability for any member of any industry to become a trusted source of information for all the other members of that industry.
Seen as interpreters of industry innovations and experts of industry success, individuals who set themselves up as ‘information hubs’ for their industry have given rise to a new breed of entrepreneur known as Youpreneurs (a term coined by author Chris Ducker).
A Youpreneur transcends the old rules of business and builds a sustainable business from the foundation of their experience, interests, and personality—their personal brand. Youpreneurs draw an engaged, loyal audience even as they pursue varying, changing interests. They play by their own rules, and they reap the benefits.
While I still believe that many industries will become fully automated over the next few decades, thus eliminating the need for ‘industry experts’ all together, there is undoubtedly a transition period we’ve found ourselves living in that favors those who embrace the truth that information truly is the new ‘currency’ of the world. Call them ‘Youpreneurs’, ‘digital nomads’, ‘internet gurus’ or whatever, the rise of this type of profession is officially here, and I tend to believe that it is one of the safest ways to ‘weather the storm’ as the world transitions away from the idea of ‘making a living’ to ‘living what you’re made for’.
Not everyone wants to become an entrepreneur or industry expert. Not everyone wants to be a manager or executive. But in today’s culture, more and more employees want their voice to be heard. More and more people want to make a difference in the world. More and more people want to have a say in what decisions are made in their places of work.
As humanity moves towards a world where ‘jobs’ are unnecessary for survival, the need for a different type of corporate structure is going to become increasingly vital. Just imagine a world where people only spend time ‘working’ on things that give them fulfillment; there is NO WAY those people will stick around an office culture where they are treated like ’employees’ and their ideas/thoughts don’t matter.
We are already seeing this dynamic manifesting in a major way through the perspectives and expectations of the Millennial generation/workforce. Millennials have become known for wanting to make a difference with their lives, and having the expectation that their vote counts. Meanwhile, most current corporate structures are pyramid, top-down structures where the only people who have power and a voice are upper management and executives.
This disconnect between what the current system delivers and what the upcoming workforce wants has created a massive challenge for every industry. For my part, I believe there are two major ideas that can bridge this gap:
In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in
Start With Why – In this book, Simon Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?
People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it.
Start With Why shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.
We need more enlightened leaders, but we need something more: enlightened organizational structures and practices. But is there even such a thing? Can we conceive of enlightened organizations?
Reinventing Organizations – The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. Deep inside, we long for soulful workplaces, for authenticity, community, passion, and purpose. The solution, according to many progressive scholars, lies with more enlightened management, but reality shows that this is not enough. In most cases, the system beats the individual – when managers or leaders go through an inner transformation, they end up leaving their organizations because they no longer feel like putting up with a place that is inhospitable to the deeper longings of their soul.
In this groundbreaking book, the author shows that every time humanity has shifted to a new stage of consciousness in the past, it has invented a whole new way to structure and run organizations, each time bringing extraordinary breakthroughs in collaboration. A new shift in consciousness is currently underway. Could it help us invent a radically more soulful and purposeful way to run our businesses and nonprofits, schools and hospitals?
The pioneering organizations researched for this book have already “cracked the code.” Their founders have fundamentally questioned every aspect of management and have come up with entirely new organizational methods. Even though they operate in very different industries and geographies and did not know of each other’s experiments, the structures and practices they have developed are remarkably similar. It’s hard not to get excited about this finding: a new organizational model seems to be emerging, and it promises a soulful revolution in the workplace.
A World Without ‘Jobs’
Only time will tell if I’m right, but I know I’m not alone in believing that the trajectory of technology/automation is bringing humanity to a place where we genuinely won’t HAVE to work in order to put food on the table.
If you have never thought about this potential future, it may sound a bit U
After all, why would this not be our future? Almost as if we have been chasing down an illusive truth deep in the heart of our consciousness, mankind has ALWAYS been in pursuit of ways by which we can free ourselves from the requirements of survival. We, unlike any other species, invent tools that make our lives easier and more enjoyable. And while this will always be the case, at some point those tools were bound to bring us to a place where we were completely free from having to do things we don’t WANT to do.
If you’re having a hard time seeing a world in which ‘jobs’ don’t exist and you are free to do what you want to do with your life (at least professionally), let me point you to just a couple of the resources that are making this case very clearly:
Can you imagine a world where our food is grown, harvested, delivered, prepared and served by robots and automated processes? A world where you don’t HAVE to cook dinner unless you WANT to?
How about a world where you don’t HAVE to mow your lawn, unless you WANT to?
Have you ever thought about what you would do with all of that extra time in a vehicle if you weren’t the one having to drive it?
Most importantly… Have you ever thought about what you would do with your life if you didn’t HAVE to work? If all ‘jobs’ were done by technology, what would be left for humans to spend their extra 40 hours per week on?
While I know the answers to these questions only give rise to more questions, I can’t help but get excited about the prospects for humanity’s evolution as a whole. What does the world look like when every human is free to pursue happiness and fulfillment with their time, instead of getting a job to ‘make a living’? Do you think people would be less angry at life? What would personal fulfillment in a majority of humanity mean for the global climate of hate and judgment that we see today?
Granted, it’s a sizeable leap to go from a world without ‘jobs’ to a world without hate and
As the title of this article suggests, I believe ‘jobs’ have been something humanity has been ‘forced’ to do by external circumstances for thousands of years. Whether it be nature forcing us to spend our time in survival mode or culture forcing us to provide value to society even when we don’t agree with its definition of what’s ‘valuable’, these realities are the very definition of enslavement. When you HAVE to do something you don’t WANT to do, there really is nothing else to call it.
We have been slaves of the conditions around us for our entire existence as a species, but that’s about to change. Barring a catastrophic event of some sort that threatens to knock us off of this path, within a few short generations I believe the consciousness of humanity will be enabled to start asking deeper questions about its existence. Once we are freed from the shackles of survival and ‘have to’s’, we will be free to pursue enjoyment and ‘want to’s’ with that much more of our energy.
If you got to wake up tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that, and EVERY day after that, and you didn’t HAVE to go to work to put food on the table… What would you do?
This isn’t anarchy – it’s quite the opposite. When you start to follow Holacracy, you learn to create new structures and ways of making decisions that empower the people who know the most about the work you do: your frontline colleagues.
I believe fulfillment is a right and not a privilege. We are all entitled to wake up in the morning inspired to go to work, feel safe when we’re there, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day. Achieving that fulfillment starts with understanding exactly WHY we do what we do.