Friends

One thing I’ve learned in the past decade is that having the right friends can make a huge difference and having the wrong ones can really hold you back. There are things that I know I never would have attempted if I’d had certain people in my life. It’s hard to tell which ones are which, though.

Opportunity


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100,000 job layoffs this week. That’s as many people as live in Burbank, California. And I am sure that a lot of those layoffs were done to satisfy some corporate mandate, not because the company was really losing money.

Is there a bright side? 

I’m convinced there can be. There’s a lot of opprounity right now, too. They tell investors ‘Buy low, sell high’. We’re at low. Time to buy. Time to start something. Time to reinvent yourself or a whole industry.

Here are some things I threw out on Twitter today.

Starbucks laying off 7,000 and they can’t make their tea drinks properly – someone buy a used ice cream and drive around selling lattes!

 

DHL closing and the post office wants to stop delivering mail on Saturdays – someone could make a lot of money rethinking snail mail.

 

Newspapers are failing nationwide – someone get a printer set up outside subway stations and sell custom printed, up the minute new-papers.

About that last one – my Twitter friend Maryilyn M sent me a link….someone is doing it!

Rather than sit around waiting to be laid off, flex your crazy idea muscles. Right now. While there’s time.

When Information Is Free

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Another thing that most of us haven’t quite wrapped our heads around is that almost anything you want to know or learn is available to you right now. Free. You’re one mouse click away from taking an M.I.T. course in Engineering or dozens of other subjects from a whole slew of univerisites

Or you could learn how to play a Death Cab For Cutie Song on the piano.

Did you know there’s 15 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute?

You can learn languages, philosophies, facts, lyrics, and how everything works

How does this change things? Did all this knowledge help Barack Obama win the election because it was so easy to fact check? Has it made the world smarter? Doesn’t quite seem so, yet. It hasn’t kept people from being laid off in mass numbers in the past few weeks.

But it’s going to have some impact. It has to. Right?

When Tools Are Free

The three images below aren’t photographs. The rooms and objects in them don’t actually exist anywhere. They were all creating in a computer graphics package. If you click on the images, you can see them in more detail, too.

Each images was made with different software programs. One piece of softwares costs about $5000, another about $2000 and the third software package is open source and totally free. Look at the images – can you tell which one is which?

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Three different artists, three different software programs, three radically different price points. One big barrier to entry. One large barrier to entry. No barrier at all.

$5000, $2000, totally free

Thirty years ago, if you wanted to do computer graphics it would have cost you a million dollars for the computer. At least. Twenty years ago, the price of admission was around $20,000. Today, any computer you buy for $600 at Best Buy would smoke the $1,000,000 or $20,000 hardware options by a factor of at least ten.

What happens when the tools become totally free? What happens when any laptop recording studio is a hundred times more powerful than the gear the Beatles used to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on? What happens when HD camcorders are $150 and your video can be broadcast worldwide, right now?

The art doesn’t get better. There isn’t mor a hundred times more good art floating around, is there? But I don’t think it’s all worse, either. There were plenty of bad albums in 1967, too.

There’s just MORE. A lot more. And it’s not going to stop.

One thing that happens when tools are free; you don’t have THAT excuse anymore. You can’t say, “If only I had the money for that ONE piece of gear….” The tool is available. What are you waiting for? Then it’s a matter of whether you put in your time. Pay your dues. Make it work for you.

So, here we are in 2009 and the tools are out there. Do you really have a story to tell? Do you really have anything to say? Some feeling you want to express, some way you need to connect to other people?

That’s free, too. Now, what are you waiting for?

Authenticity

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“There’s a line in Turgenev’s novel Virgin Soil that absolutely haunts me. It’s a suicide note, and the entire note is, ‘I could not simplify myself.’ “

– Peter Matthiessen 

How many of us who work at a job to earn their money are able to just be ourselves?

I’m not talking about the outer reaches of honesty where you reveal your innermost secrets willy nilly. I’m in favor of honesty but I’m also in favor of privacy and everyone has to decide where they draw that line.

But there’s something fundemetally fake about working life. The mask most people wear at work is just as real as the uniform or name tag some people are required to wear in order to get paid. 

The recent news about the Circuit City layoffs suddenly had me envisioning tens of thousands of people running into the street while ripping off their brightly colored polo shirts. I don’t mean to dimiss the hardship that those people will endure but part of can’t help wondering if some of them won’t be happier opening their own computer consulting and repair business or something. 

It’s really hard to be yourself when there’s a fake hierarchy and a policy manual that discourages individual thought, innovation and achievement. It’s really easy to dig in and keep your head down, hoping that that will somehow save you. I’ve seen this process take great, really cool companies and slowly grind them down into nothing particularly interesting. Worse, I’ve seen companies grind really interesting people down, too.

How would your attitude at work changed if you had nothing to lose? What great thing would you do if you knew you wouldn’t be fired for it? What if you started saying exactly what was on your mind at work?