Friday, July 22, 2011

Working in the economy

Hey guys, guess what?

The US economy is sucking for those of us in the bottom 80% right now. It's causing a lot of concern, angst- oh, and a lot of joblessness. While Congress, The President, Wall Street and the Corporate interests are making out dandy, thanks- we're not.

So here's a few notes, from someone who hasn't had a job in long enough that he's self-employed.

One thing you might want to look at is whether you want a job, or you want income.

Think on that one for a moment, and realize that the two aren't inseparable.

There's a lot of advantages to jobs as such- health benefits, retirement plans, managers directing and controlling your work. I can see flat out stating that it's gotta be a job you want- That's cool, but the rest of this post is aimed at someone who wants income in the meantime. Or someone who doesn't care about the job aspect as much as the income aspect.

Why am I writing this? Because, I honestly think it's up to us to build the economy, or at least keep some levels of it functioning- underneath, orthogonal to, and in spite of DC and Wall Street. I'm not going to get into any details, but my view is expressed here:

Okay, back to work. Income. Income means producing wealth- whether it's trade, production, reselling- doesn't matter. In some way, you need to add something to the mix, then collect some cash for it. (Or barter, but that's all up to you.)

The absolute basic rules are pretty simple. The first one is Do Stuff. Very simply, you need to move around, and make changes in your local universe. Weaving baskets out of pine needle bundles may sound silly, but it sure beats couch potato lard.

It really doesn't matter, at most levels, what it is you are doing all the time, as long as you are Doing Stuff. If you want a job coding remotely for a company, that's great- your Doing Stuff should probably include lots of software in the OSS and PDA fields. But sharpening all your friends' axes and whittling a chain necklace are cool, too.

Do. Stuff.

Second rule: Finish something every day. Some projects take an hour, some take a month, but you need to make sure that every single day you have something you can point to and say "Complete!"

This is crucial stuff. Without going way deep into psychology, if you do this you'll build up some momentum, horsepower, and your time management skills will soar (trust me)

Third rule: eliminate all "can't", "not allowed to", "don't have the materials", and "need to buy this first" talk.

As I said before, pine needle baskets are cool if that's where you are at. With what's around you, you can do something. Do it. "all the jobs are near this rail line I live far away from." "The landlord won't let me run a forge on a balcony." "I need a CNC mill before I can make this model to sell."

Balls. Do Stuff. No can't, just Do Stuff.

Okay, here's the magic part- as long as you follow these three rules (intelligently- starting a $25,000 homebuilt airplane while on unemployment is not intelligent), good stuff will happen to you. Money will come in, however slowly, people will give you stuff, trade you stuff, come over and share experience. Stuff Happens when you Do Stuff.

You can target this, you can focus on an area, build a career, aim for a job in a specific industry, whatever you want. Just don't break the three simple rules.

Let's say you are following the rules. What's next? Well, don't expect $2,500 a month off of etsy selling pine needle coasters that you learned how to make a week ago.

This one is really hard for people. You can't master anything that's going to make you a lot of money and generate life quality in a day, a week, or a month. You may get no more than 10% over your materials cost for stuff at first. A set of pine needle coasters (6) might sell for $10. And that's going to take you half a day of work to do. Sucks, huh?

Well, here's the thing- every hour you spend, attentively, doing stuff, is an investment in skill and ability.

I have met a model maker- guy makes little plastic models. He sells them for over $250 each. (A couple a week.) Believe me, he's not slapping together a Revell kit and spraypainting it! He's got years into this, he's developed skill, an artistic style (even accurate modelling has it), and a customer base.

Making chainmail jewelry? great. It's not magic, but it's sellable if you choose materials right. But you have to produce detail oriented work (smooth closures, even rings), and you have to put enough time in to have something to sell. 5 days for a $20 bracelet ain't it. 5 days should net you a sleeveless shirt. 10 days should net you a full knee length hauberk and coif. Work means WORK.

Don't expect that anything you do is perfectly unique- no cottage industry is completely new (okay, very damned few) and you do have to deal with the fact that there's someone out there been doing it longer. that's okay.

There's a saying in the knife world that anything you develop in your custom shop has been done before sometime in history. You may put a twist into it, or be using a new steel, but it's almost certainly been done. That's fine by me, I'm selling my knives as my knives. I don't need to try and force people to believe I invented knifemaking.

Fortunately, you don't have to saturate a market, nor even necessarily compete with anyone else. There's lots of room. Whatever you are doing, you can do it well and generate some life out of it.

I have to append a pretty important note to the second rule. Extending this rule is crucial.

I'm not talking solely about refusing to "I can't" on whatever you are doing. This needs to be extended to life.

A lot of people, I find, have an excuse for everything. It's as if there's a programmed avoidance technique in operation where if anything new, active, or solution oriented is proposed, the first thing to do is find a reason why it can't be done.

This is absolutely critical. ERASE this attitude, response, and habit from yourself.

You may find you have to stop accepting it from others. Spending 5 hours of your Doing Stuff time listening to someone else chant "I can't" in all the various forms will not help you. And they are just as likely to put that onto you- "You can't."

I'm not saying you have to divorce yourself from these people, but some tactic will need to be employed to protect yourself from ... well, not Doing Stuff.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Politics of working

This is a side note, a reference for another post.

For purposes of working with how I am treating the subject of working and income, consider thbese views.....or don't! This isn't crucial, but points out some difficulties.

First, the government of the US isn't here to get anyone a job, nor to ensure employment. Not even to fix the economy. The federal government is primarily to prevent "bad actions" in the economy.

What this means is that, left unchecked, "capitalism" will end up taken over by monopolistic and protectionist machines. Adam Smith saw this one, as did many of our Founding Fathers. In fact, if you look at corporate law in our first couple decades as a nation, you see a very different picture.


and (bit leftist for me, but read it)

Secondly, large corporations in general are not here to benefit you. Further than that, their power structures are set up to control wealth and power over and of others. The independent businessman, cottage industry, and entrepreneur are threats.

So don't be looking at corporate loyalty, benefits, or anything else to save you.