Brandon Vogt often shares stuff by entrepreneurial/productivity guru Seth Godin. And I always find his ideas interesting; he’s a future thinker kind of guy, a visionary in terms of where technological work is heading and how we should adapt to it.
But I’m here to show a more excellent way than his solution for how to avoid being replaced in your job.
Briefly, his premise is that, in the globally competitive marketplace, in what he thinks is a recession that will never truly end, you must become indispensable in your company. Someone who connects people, forges ahead where there is no path yet trodden, and serves as an irreplaceable worker.
If you are an average worker, you will be replaced by someone else who can do the same job for cheaper, whether in your own country or in Asia or elsewhere where labor is inexpensive. So you must not be average, just getting your job done (even if doing it well); you must be exceptional.
And I think he’s right.
I’m a software developer and see already that developers in India and China and Eastern Europe are gaining in technical skill and in numbers. They work for much less than American developers do. Eventually the few advantages U.S. programmers still have will be nullified, and “average” developers will see their jobs get outsourced.
So in theory I should buy his book and learn how to become exceptional so that I keep my job.
But here’s the problem: by definition, everyone can’t become exceptional. Otherwise everyone is the exception which means no one is. By definition, most people are average, the big part of the bell curve. So his solution isn’t really one at all. Sure, it might help the people who are already exceptional become more so, or the few hanging out near the standard deviation’s edge to move a few fractions to the indispensable right of the curve. But for everyone else: pack up your desk; you are the weakest link; good-bye!
Godin is advising on how to avoid getting replaced–a problem we’ve created for ourselves by our modern industrial business model, where everyone’s a cog in the machine. “Be an indispensable cog,” is his message. “Then when natural selection comes and culls the unexceptional, you’re left untouched, flying above the clouds in bliss.”
But I say, why not opt out of the machine altogether?
One way is to become independently wealthy (like Godin is), by getting hundreds of thousands of people to buy your products and come to your talks and label you as a guru. Great. Most people can’t do that, anymore than they can become exceptional.
Instead, we need an economic system where even average people–who are the majority–can provide for their families. A Distributive economy, where the majority (and not just the few) own land and have capital to generate their own subsistence and wealth.
Imagine a country where the majority were, at least in part, yeoman farmers–agriculturalists with some small number of acres to provide a large part of their food–and where people could actually learn trades and (even with their moderate intellects and average abilities) make a living from them. Spinning wool, sewing clothes, butchering meat, milling grain, building houses, sawing lumber, wiring electrical connections, metal-working, etc. etc.
The average guy and gal can’t get outsourced from such an economy.
They don’t need to fear being replaced because they aren’t a cog in the global economic wheel, a mere object that can be discarded when a cheaper one comes along. They are instead an integral part of their local community, one that is economically stable and independent of a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan.
A truly human economic system must have room for the average human to make a decent living. One that requires everyone to be indispensable is inhuman.
And within the locally focused, distributive economy, there’s plenty of room for imagination, hard work, creativity, and so forth, not for the end goal of becoming rich (as is so often what modern workers are shooting for), but to simply make a living doing something that’s good for family, for the community, and good for God’s creation. We work insane hours for decades as cogs in the machine in order that we may finally “retire” one day and, if we still have any health left, buy an RV to cruise about the country, perpetually “getting away from it all.”
What if instead we were rooted to our home place and found the recreation and beauty on our own ten acres, watching the animal life around our pond, the wildflowers in spring, the grains turning golden and the sheep grazing in the pasture? What if we never wanted to retire from our work, because our work was stewarding the land and plying the trades we loved to do? What if it were so fulfilling that our children wanted to stay and continue such a life, instead of heading to the cities to join the rat race and futilely attempting to become that indispensable cog in the works?
Pie in the sky? Maybe. Certainly not everyone would even want to do it. So let them make the smart phones and RVs and computers for the cheapest price possible while we go back to the Land and live a whole life.
Apple says “think different.”
I say “live different.”
I’m not a guru. I’m trying to figure this stuff out. So weigh in and respond with your challenges, rebuttals, arguments, and thoughts.