Original thoughts are valuable. That’s why patents exist. Many new ideas are new to the person who thought them, but a bit of research shows that someone else thought the same thing some other time and place. (Got an idea? I know a guy who’d like to help.) The same is true about advice, insights, and wisdom. Like legitimate, original patents, original lessons (like revelations) are valuable. Patents are valuable to the inventor (ideally), and maybe to those who benefit from their use. Advice, insights, and wisdom can be valuable to anyone who cares to listen – even if the thoughts aren’t new. The Gig Economy is teaching lessons to its growing population. The ideas may seem new, but they are familiar to those who’ve always relied on sporadic businesses: e.g. doctors, brokers, consultants. Soon, most workers will be studying those lessons by choice or by necessity. The best lesson may be what it takes to get out of bed in the morning.
The talk about the Gig Economy can be tiresome to those doctors, brokers, and consultants who’ve worked for decades in environments where income isn’t guaranteed, benefits are paid for personally, and time off from work means a vacation from income but not a vacation from expenses. It was easy to ignore their situation when they were a small slice of the workforce. Now, their lessons will be applicable to a much larger chunk of the populace.
The Gig Economy started with the tendency to outsource work. Full-time employees were encouraged to work from outside the office, saving on facility expenses. Some saw their jobs turn into part-time or contract work, saving the companies money for health benefits, vacations, and retirement plans. By 1995, 9% of the workforce had the new working conditions. Welcome the broad acceptance of the Internet and watch the number grow to today’s 15%. Smartphones and corporate policies are accelerating the change. Instead of taking twenty years to gain 6%, the next ten years could turn the majority of workers into members of the Gig Economy. Those doctors, brokers, and consultants have already learned the lessons that half the workforce must learn, and quickly.
It can be tough getting up Monday through Friday, making breakfast and lunch, getting the kids off to school, taking care of the pets, and then commuting to a job. It can be such a drudge that there are posters and cartoons helping people vicariously vent frustrations. Scott Adams’ Dilbert succeeds because that repetitive life is too common. Underlying the routine, and its evening mirror is a relatively predictable structure. Days are well-defined. Paychecks arrive on a regular basis. Long term goals can be aimed at. Paying bills, saving for retirement, and squeezing in vacations can be planned. There will be drudgery, but it is a familiar drudgery that can be planned for, coped with, and negotiated around.
Step into the Gig Economy.
Whether you see it as new or old, the only familiarity is the structure you define. Without a structure, schedules can become so fluid that computerized calendars become a necessity. The brochure for the Gig Economy may tout freedom, but building a business from a series of gigs also means negotiating the jigsaw puzzle of a scattering of client schedules that have little incentive for working nicely with others. The worker becomes a business. The business’ revenues are more unpredictable than the schedules. Each contract is a new opportunity for different payment plans, different tendencies to pay on-time or in-full or randomly, and different ways to pay. Check, credit card, PayPal, cash, Bitcoin, or…?
Like I said above, that may seem like a familiar situation for 15% of the population, but there’s another 30% that’s about to have to learn those lessons. Tens of millions will be looking for answers.
Waking up is hard to do. Amidst the various gripes I hear, getting motivated every day is one of the persistent problems. With a regular job, alarm clocks can be set at one time for every work day. With erratic schedules and assignments, every day, even the weekends, can start with an early morning flash of urgency; “Did I sleep in?”, “Do I have to get somewhere now, or later?”, “Is there a deadline in the next few hours or days?” Every morning can start with heightened uncertainty. Then the business sided of the conversation kicks in; “How many different jobs and clients do I have to keep in mind?”, “How much am I expecting to make today?”, “Is that more than I’m going to spend?”. Whatever the answer, the follow-on is; “How long can this feast or famine last?”, and “Have I set aside enough from the feasts for the next famine?” In the midst of dry spells, it is easy to want to hide under the covers. That’s not just an expression. I know folks who regularly retreat to time under the blanket, not because they are lazy, but because their situation is so precarious and uncertain that they actually fear taking on the day. It can be a scary world, out there.
Getting out of bed can become a special skill.
I know those kinds of mornings. It has been years since I’ve seen a steady revenue surplus. (Massive understatement.) If an alarm goes off, I know I have something to do. I rarely wake up to an alarm. If I have something to do, I tend to wake up before the alarm rings. If I don’t have anything immediately scheduled, there’s no alarm; but I wake up anyway. As I lay there, my mind frequently flips into the worries about having enough, how to get it, and what will happen if I don’t get enough. That’s where worries can rule the day. I found a way around that.
I play the lottery. Of course I want to win the jackpot, get healthier, and re-retire. The lottery is a ticket for hope. One morning several years ago I woke up with the worries and stopped myself. Wouldn’t it be nice to win the lottery? Sure. I asked myself what would be different. As I lay there, I realized I was warm, my muscles were more relaxed than they would be the rest of the day, the world was quiet, and I was comfortable. A hundred million dollars wouldn’t change the essence of that feeling. (Though I might own a bed, again.) I was already experiencing that feeling. There was no need to buy it. I might as well enjoy it – at least for a little while.
Now, I know my mind will start down that very logical, responsible, and possibly depressing work-related path; and I’ll pull myself back. Any regrets are in the past. Leave them there. The worries are about the future. I’ll get to that. The present is precious, and not just first thing in the morning. As I type this, the sun is setting on a warm, late winter day. Dogs and birds are making as much noise as someone’s far-off suburban background hum. I know what I’m having for dinner. I should have time for a walk, maybe a karate workout, and almost definitely Netflix and popcorn. The more I notice the present, the less I worry about the future – at least for a while.
My motivation that gets me out of bed is an appreciation of the present, plus an awareness that futures can change by chance. Contacts made years ago can deliver opportunities in unexpected emails and phone calls. Good luck plays a large enough role in successes that few biographies and histories exist without it. That’s what works for me. If it works for you, great! If not, and if you find yourself in a similar situation, check around with folks that have been dealing with it for decades, those experienced doctors, brokers, and consultants.
As for luck. I bought my lottery tickets. I wonder, did you, too? (Really, the Powerball plus MegaMillions jackpots combined are worth ~$800,000,000. Would winning them make you sleep better or worse? Stay tuned.)