Saturday, October 25, 2014

Proficiency will likely become one's biggest asset in the future

 Some people have never liked school.
I’m going to guess they often are of the rebellious type.
It reminds me of the 1975 Pink Floyd song, Welcome to the Machine:
“You bought a guitar to punish your ma
And you didn’t like school and you know you’re nobody’s fool”
I am of that archetype.
Definitely I wasn't fond of school.
I’ve bought plenty of guitars — 23 to be exact. Some are long gone. I currently own 14.
I was definitely going “against the grain” in many ways.
But I was a fool, as I’ve ended up working just as hard being an autodidact as if I had gone through college — no shortcut whatsoever there.
I’ve been pondering for some time now as to where we’re heading as a society.
It’s all moving so fast now.
Not long ago it seemed, a school dropout like myself, if they were lucky enough or sufficiently resourceful, could inch themselves up from mid-middle class status to the upper-middle class (or even higher) by turning their trade into a business — that maneuver still required a learning curve, but not a college education. And if they are like me, it was an afterthought, and not part of a deliberate plan.
I’m not so sure that this type of carelessness will be such a viable option in the future.
There is a convergence of societal trends that seems to confirm this apprehension, if I’m interpreting them correctly.
Millenials have a very different value set. We’re moving away from greed to social good, from pollution to thinking green and other such differentiators.
In an interview earlier this year, Adam Nash, the CEO of Wealthfront was explaining that Millennials don’t want to focus on their money. They’re not looking to invest outside of their career so as to accumulate wealth. Their career is where their money will come from. They seek a balance where they get to work every day with the type of people that they like on issues and products that they are passionate about.
I’ve hired Millenials in my brickwork restoration business and I’ve observed firsthand that in general they’re not so eager, as I was, to put in the 60+ hours a week realistically needed to be self employed. Unless they want to become entrepreneurs, I suppose.
Of course, you can’t generalize like that about people, but there is definitely a trend there.
Furthermore, technology is currently in the process of disrupting every business and market with deflationary economics as a result.
What do I mean? Remember when Hotmail came out? They were giving away free email accounts. That was new. Pretty ubiquitous now.
And so it went.
Do you need to buy a Microsoft Office suite nowadays? No, Google Docs is free.
When you travel, do you need to stay in a hotel? No, you can get an Airbnb for much cheaper.
Look at how Amazon operates.
That’s what is meant by deflationary economics.
The internet and software technology are making sweeping changes across all industries and one of the outcomes is lower prices.
If you factor in the effects of globalization on the price of labor/services on top of that, the question is, where will this all lead to?
The middle class will likely feel the squeeze even more. Many of them have artificially propped their lifestyle through debt, as mass-media-created expectations keep pounding them with more product offerings they presumably can’t live without, even though they can’t factually afford them.
We may be headed for a big correction in the future, as many of us expect.
Great thinkers such Marc Andreessen and Elon Musk remind us to remain optimistic that technology will save us. 
The question remains, how shall we be able to adequately survive in the future?
One of the answers, I’m inferring, will be that it will depend on how competent — read “irreplaceable” — we make ourselves, so we can command the top price of the market, whatever that happens to be; all the while embracing the sharing (more accurately, the rental) economy and other forms of minimalism. 
The latter is already happening, look at Airbnb, Uber, as the two most conspicuous examples.
As for the former, getting a college education (or what that will shape into after the inevitable disruption that will occur in that sector as well) might become more and more important in turning ourselves into linchpins. Not the whole answer, but definitely part of the mix. In other words, how can we create added value?
A societal shift at this level already seems noticeable.
I can’t believe how much homework kids — teenagers in particular — are doing these days — and willingly so…and in a way that I would never have personally done in my time. My nice, my nephew, the neighbor’s kid, my customer’s kids are all doing homework until 1:00 am…and going to school the next day. Two weeks ago, one of my customers was telling me that this was the case with her three daughters; and she didn’t know how they could handle it, as she could herself barely manage to stay up with them, which she makes a point of doing.
So kids are obviously taking this seriously — at least a good portion of them — unlike rebellious teenagers like myself who refused to plan for the future.
And so they should, it would seem, because if I got this right, competence will become the be all and end all for the middle class in the future for those within it who want to gravitate towards the higher end of it.

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