Your Age Of Anxiety

Your Age Of Anxiety

It was 2006 and I saw a way out of college by Christmas.

In hindsight, a lot was happening.  I’d never spent the time to think about 9-11, and the war, and it was starting to catch up with me.

It may have been anxiety rather than guilt.  I was in a state of indecision.

So, I squeezed in one more course to finish.  GIS.  Geographic Information Systems.

“In GIS we map data geographically on computer software.  This produces meta-data,” the professor said.  “Meta-data is data about data.”

Woah.  I scanned for the nearest exit.

Somehow, the guy next to me knew which buttons to click on the computer.  When someone said files, I looked around the room for metal cabinets.

Maybe I had missed something.  Years later I can find the files on my computer, but I have no idea about GIS. But something from that class stuck.

“Data about data.”

Though we were “coding” meta-data, it was not what we most cared about.  It pointed to something far more important.  The actual data.

That’s what we wanted to see; to understand.  The meta-data showed the way.

I’ve been writing about fear regarding your art/business ideas and anxiety plays a role early in the process.

Anxiety is information about what we should really care about.  We can use it.

The Age Of Anxiety

About a year later my brother, who was taking a college history course, asked me what I thought nationalism meant.

“It’s an extreme form of patriotism,” I said.  “Mostly a negative thing.”

They were learning about the “Age of Anxiety.”  He taught me that general, society-wide, anxiety between 1900 and 1914 had contributed to two world wars.

There was lots of nationalism worldwide and war broke out.

Why?

I needed to find out.

Anxiety ==> Fear ==> Anger

Where is the balance in this equation?

Around 1900 people were anxious about fast changes in technology.  Society was reorganizing from an agrarian base to an industrial one.

People didn’t know where they would fit into the new ordering of everything.  Would they have to move to big cities; go into factories?

National officials showed signs of anxiety, too. Some countries didn’t have all the resources they needed to compete.

All the anxiety would eventually ignite a war.  Fear denied, ignored, or resisted, turns into fear on steroids.  The definition of anger.

Certainly, a sudden shock can take us all the way from neutral, or low levels of anxiety, straight into anger.  Sometimes it can’t be avoided—when 9-11 happened, for instance.

The trick is to be present with the anger, getting back to fear, where courage happens.

The heroes we read about from WWII—Captain Winters from Band of Brothers—seem cool, calm and collected.  Not angry, but present with the fear—courageous.

Anxiety, I learned, was worse than fear in the lead up to the Great Wars.  Rather than move from anxiety into action, facing fear, the nations retreated into themselves.

Until the greatest war in memory broke out.

It Starts With Action (or the decision to act)

Fear isn’t first.  We act, or decide to act, and then face fear.  Anxiety signals where we need to go.  The center of the equation is where the creativity is.

But society-wide, we wouldn’t act.  It was mass paralysis.  Finally, there was a spark and mass warfare between 1914 and 1945.

WWI basically can’t be explained otherwise.

In four years 2 million French, 2 million Germans, 1.5 million English, and hundreds of thousands of Americans would die in The War.  And virtually nothing was either won or lost by either side.

Meta-Fear

Anxiety is fear of fear. We all get it. Every animal shows signs of it.  It’s natural.  Nature gave it to us.

But like meta-data it’s not what’s real.  It’s information about information.  It’s pointing to something else.  If you don’t know what, then experiment until you find it.

When you’re engaged in something you know is positive, but you feel fear anyway, you’re going in the right direction.

I said fear is a result of action and anxiety a result of inaction.

The exception is that as humans, we can decide to act ahead of time.  For our brains, this may as well be action.

Even if we don’t know consciously what’s coming next, our gut might.  One way, or another, we’re going.

The key, is to be present with it.  Maybe I have all the information I need.

Maybe 1,000,000 years of gut instinct is signaling something for me.  “Go this way.  Towards it.”

Can I use anxiety to tell me where I need to go; what I need to do?

In my 20s, peers of mine taught me that courage wasn’t being unafraid.  It was being afraid but not letting the fear stop you from doing what, deep down, you already knew you needed to do.

Anxiety is an early detection device.

The Thin Red Line

It reminds me of the character of the New York soldier in the late ‘90s film “The Thin Red Line.”  The redhead who’d volunteered for the critical assault on the Japanese machine gun bunker.

The first time I watched this movie I thought they were setting him up as a coward.  Why else would he be hyperventilating while his comrades waited stoically beside him?

But it’s a movie with deep characters.

He was terrified because he knew what no one else knew, or could know—that he was going all the way.  He had already decided.  Or something deep within him had already decided.

It was like he was already there.  The most intense fear can come before action.  In his mind he was already maneuvering towards the rattle of the machine gun fire, saving his comrades, which he did.

Alternatively, anxiety is a state of indecision.  The most dangerous state.  Paralysis.

I’m not saying all heroes behave this way.  But to show cinematically what he was feeling, he was portrayed with physical signs of outward terror before the battle even began.

First there is action, or the decision to act, and then fear.

Is the The Thin Red Line the space between panic and courage?

Go Where The Fear Is

Sometimes I don’t know, professionally, where I need to go or what I need to do.  Who knows what’s right all the time?

But this is what “follow your gut” means.  Anxiety, fear, and anger are identifiable emotions.  If you are anxious about something maybe you need to engage that thing.

The reptile part of our brains is millions of years older than the parts responsible for creativity.  It wants to keep you superficially safe.  It will say no to your ideas.  Particularly at three in the morning.

But creativity is where we expose ourselves; living in the creative world, and not hunkered down, in the mind.

In the lead up to WWI whole nations avoided the world.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  But we can learn.  There was no engagement.  Engagement was fearful.  We were afraid of fear.  Anxiety is fear of fear.

Your positive ideas are in you.  Engage them.

No one chooses anxiety.  It’s forced on me.  But I can choose to be with fear instead.

-Paul

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Ignoring The Scoreboard

Ignoring The Scoreboard

Alabama football coach Nick Saban was interviewed on 60 Minutes. 

They asked him about the time his center and quarterback got in a shoving match, in the middle of the field, while Alabama was blowing out Notre Dame on primetime TV.

It was the fourth quarter and Alabama had the ball with a huge lead.  They practically couldn’t lose.  But there was some miscommunication and a busted play.

On the way to the huddle, Alabama’s quarterback said something to the center.  We don’t know what.  Maybe it was horrible.  The center turned and shoved the quarterback like a practice dummy.

No fight broke out.  That was the end of it.  Saban’s squad immediately got back down to the business of destroying their opponent.  It didn’t matter, though.  The media had a story.

You rarely see this—key members of a league’s overwhelmingly dominant team in a shoving match with each other; while winning big!

Was Saban too zealous?  Too hard on his players?  It’s just a game, coach!

But in the interview, Saban, with hardly concealed satisfaction, said it just went to show that his players had bought into his “process.”

The Process

Saban changed college football the way Billy Beane changed baseball.  Just ask the Astros.

Saban’s “process” for winning football games couldn’t be simpler.

It demands that his players focus not on the result they want (victories), but each step in the process of getting to that result.

The “process” says that if you want to win championships, focus on games.  If you want to win games, focus on well-executed plays.  If you want well-executed plays, focus on well-executed tasks.  If you want well-executed tasks, focus on practice.  If you want good practice, focus on sleep.  If you want good sleep, focus on diet and exercise, etc., etc., etc.

Everything is drilled down to its center.

Forget About The Score

Saban tells his players to ignore the scoreboard.

In theory his players had no idea they led by several touchdowns.

Whether they knew or not isn’t the point.  They acted like they didn’t.  It’s like being born again after each down.

He trains his players to never stop pushing themselves towards excellence, even when down; especially when down; which of course, they hardly ever are.

They were running that play like the season depended on it; neither desperately nor lackadaisically, but like pros; the best they could.  Every time.

The Best Lesson’s Are Outside The Classroom

Victory doesn’t depend on anything outside myself.  Victory is being in a state of constant improvement and growth.  Wins just happen to be a byproduct of this.

If you find what you love and focus on improving at that thing, a little bit every day, you can’t fail.

And by not failing, I don’t necessarily mean winning.  Winning, in sport, is just some arbitrary result in a temperature controlled environment.

Competitive sport, especially football, may seem like simulated warfare, but it isn’t.  For one simple reason:  On a battlefield there is no boundary line.  The boundary is always pushed and tested.

The average everyday life, in fact, is much more similar to a battle.  The rules are constantly changing.  The game we play at any given moment is subject to total change.

Victory in life is not identical with victory in sport.  Finding what you love and doing that everyday will not necessarily make you rich according to conventional standards.  Maybe it will, but there are no guarantees.

But that isn’t what’s important.  That isn’t the life lesson Saban teaches his players.  He teaches them self-reliance; to ignore the scoreboard; a million factors affect the scoreboard; that is out of your control.

 

Zero time is spent thinking about the past, which may or may not have been a success, or the future, where success becomes less and less likely the more it draws your focus away from the present. A championship season is broken down into a million separate efforts.

The late Wayne Dyer said that to achieve big things we must think small; from his teachings on the Tao.

Practice What You Preach

Coach follows his own advice.  Saban famously sets aside 24 hours to enjoy championships.  He says you need to have a short memory when bad things, as well as good things, happen.

Then, it’s back to work.

Go Surfing

Let My People Go Surfing” is Yvon Chouinard’s business biography.  Yvon founded Patagonia, the billion dollar outdoor outfitting and clothing company, in a tin workshop in the 60s.  He started handcrafting metal rings for climbers to walk up mountain walls like spiders.

In the book he talks about Zen Archery.

The shooter doesn’t focus on the target.  He focuses on pulling the arrow out of the quiver, and breathing; then placing the arrow in the bow, and breathing; then squeezing the arrow, and breathing; then pulling the string back, and breathing, etc., etc., etc.

If you do this you can’t help but hit the bulls-eye, he said.

Then why is it so hard?  Why don’t I do this?

Maybe we don’t really want the results we say we want, is one obvious answer.  Fear of success.

But usually we’re just unaware.  The process is so simple it’s easy, not to forget, but to forget about.

It so insignificant in appearance we overlook it with our mind’s eye.

You can’t buy it or feel it or look at it.  It’s just the way things are.

Somehow Nick Saban gets a whole squad of 21-year-old men to do this.

Does this make Nick Saban the Zen master of football?  Of course it does.

Follow The Process And Ignore The Weather

When you have a home, bad weather doesn’t bother you too much.

If it gets lousy outside, you can head home.

This is what it feels like to know your purpose.  You are never homeless.

Sometimes we invite others along on life’s journey.  Whether they join or not you are unaffected.

You are already completed.  Lucky is he or she that can roll this into a career.

Saban’s doesn’t allow his players to blame the opponent, or crazy bad luck, when they lose.  Saban is famous for this.

There was a miracle play one day, and Auburn won, impossibly, at the end of the game.  The craziest play in football history.  Afterwards Saban didn’t blame bad luck.  He blamed himself and his team.

Not because it would help them that night.  It made the pain worse.

But next time.  Next time.

 

Like A Turtle With His House On His Back

People who can find their own personal center will never be homeless—or imprisoned.  Some prisoners rot.  Some write books, find God, and live in fullness.

 

Your center is not man-made.  It is not fabricated by your mind.  It’s what you care about.  This isn’t easy to discover.

Yvon ran Patagonia for 35 years before he could answer the question “why” he did business.

He finally found it. It was to serve as an example to other successful corporations about environmental sustainability and humane work environments.

He had to find his philosophy.  He did that by persevering.  He kept asking questions.

Your center is the thing that underlies the man-made invention of what we “do” with “why” we do it.

I don’t know whether Nick and Yvon have met.  But if they did I think they’d be speaking the same language.

-Paul

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Giving + Rejection = Breakthrough

Giving + Rejection = Breakthrough

Bingo.  I had a business idea.  So, I pitched it to someone.  I just wanted a yes.  They said no.

It hurt (ok) and I balked (not ok).  I was caught off guard by the sting of rejection.

We all know how rejection feels—like a piece of us is ripped out.  But first, of course, there was the fear.

At the outset of our lives we don’t know fear.  Then we form attachments with worldly things and those things are eventually torn away–always.

The first time it happens it’s a lollipop.  For 100% percent of people, the ripping away feeling starts with a lollipop.

Then we grow up and we lose a career path we’ve become attached to; a relationship; a house.  And its scary.  And, sometimes, the fear so overwhelms us that it mutates into anger or even bitterness.

I wanted to know how successful business people overcome the fear.

What I Learned

It’s fun to give.  Everyone enjoys this; whether it’s our art, an idea, love, a helping hand, or just a kind hello or thank you.

But it’s when these gifts are rejected that we experience some of our worst pain.

Over time, rejection teaches us to reduce our gift-giving; our creativity; our art.  We learn that the stimulus is the giving and that if we eliminate the giving we can avoid the rejection.

Tony Robbins said people will do more to avoid pain than receive pleasure.

Learn A Different Lesson

Successful entrepreneurs experience the same rejection but learn a different lesson.

They learn that rejection is a signal to tweak their approach or their art; or simply to try it on a different person or group.

They understand that the person who rejected them doesn’t necessarily know them.  They can choose someone else to do business with; they can try again.  Simple.

They haven’t, necessarily, figured out how to avoid fear.  They feel the same burn of rejection.  Maybe they’ve developed strategies to reduce it. (next week’s post).  But they except and acknowledge it when it’s there.

They understand it’s normal and they can try again with new ideas or with other people.

They look inward and not outward for the answer.  They don’t get angry at the person rejecting them.  Maybe that person didn’t ask for your ideas and opinions.  They didn’t ask for your help.

Or maybe they did.  It doesn’t matter.

They Don’t Let It Become Anger

Its OK to be angry sometimes.  Sometimes something so shocking happens that we skip fear and move straight into anger.  9-11 for example.  I’m just saying that if you’re angry try to acknowledge it.

Become aware of it and try and get back to pure fear.  This is where the potential for courage is.

Without fear, there can be no courage.  Because courage is not the absence of fear. It’s when you’re afraid but you go ahead anyway.

With fear, at least, you have more of your wits than with anger.  Sometimes we associate anger with masculinity.  This is false.  Being angry doesn’t make you seem bigger or more powerful.

Why?

Because anger is just super fear.  It’s fear evolved to a state where you have lost balance and control.  You are no longer in the driver’s seat.

Don’t Hide Anger

I got good at hiding anger.  But hiding anger didn’t mean I’d hidden the fear.  Fear oozes through every crack in a human form.

So, if you ever realize you’re afraid, be grateful.  It means you haven’t slipped into anger.  You are aware of the fear and you proceed with it.  And there is a hidden life hack here: You cannot be grateful and afraid at the same time.

Acknowledging anger can get you back to fear.  Acknowledging fear and not letting it stop you gets you to courage.

You’ll never have to wonder why you’re angry again.  It’s because you’re afraid.  But why are you afraid?  That one goes deeper.  It’s biology.  Maybe there’s an answer.   Maybe there isn’t.

Studying the reptile brain with Steven Pressfield can provide some insight.

How To Eliminate Fear

Fear is the product of losing things or the expectation of losing things.  We are born into a world where everything physical, including our lives, will be taken away.  At a time and place not of our choosing.

Along life’s journey we grab onto possessions, ideas, or beliefs thinking maybe we can hold on to life forever.  We form attachments.  Then we fear losing those things.  More things to lose equals more fear.

So how do we live free of fear?

There is only one way.  Eliminate attachments.  If you are attached to something don’t be.  Figure out how never to become attached to things that are out of your control—everything in the known world.

This is impossible.

So, give freely regardless of the outcome.  This means acknowledging our finiteness and realizing we are here to give until we have nothing left.

Try Knew Things

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  I’ve known this for a while now.  I still violate the rule, constantly.

So, this time I sat back and thought about what had happened with my most recent rejection. How do successful business people deal with rejection?

I found out that giving is hard, not because we would rather receive than give, or that we want to accumulate things and giving them away is not good for this, but because our gifts are often rejected.

I think this is what successful entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, learn to master.  Give without fear.

Not All Of Your Gifts Are Wanted

We’re supposed to grow up and leave childlike ways behind.  Kids cry if a bully takes something away from them.

But adults do too.  But it’s not a bully, now.  It’s rejection.

We like to attach ourselves, our identities, to ideas as much as things.  Politics is an example.  Why do we care so much?

When our political ideas are rejected we feel the pain.  Oh, the pain.

We’ve become attached or identified with our idea; our belief.  When it’s thrown back in our face, often by someone we love (Thanksgiving dinner?), it hurts.

I think entrepreneurs who master rejection to keep giving until they achieve breakthrough do two things well:

  1. They are less attached to their ideas, so rejection is not as painful
  2. After rejection, they try again

Rejection Is A Skill

James Carville said he admires politicians for one simple reason.  They aren’t afraid to fail publicly.  They got good at rejection.

I don’t want to avoid giving my art which often leads to rejection.  I want to get better at rejection itself.

This post is about awareness and identifying the problem.  Half the battle.

Next week I’ll write about the strategies entrepreneurs use to reduce fear and attachment to achieve breakthrough.

-Paul

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The “How To Find Your Philosophy” Life Hack

The “How To Find Your Philosophy” Life Hack

A controversial politician, in response to questions about war, said that in life there are “known unknowns”—things we know we don’t know. The number of rocks on Mount Everest, for example.

But, he said, there are also “unknown unknowns”—things we don’t even know that we don’t know.

Basically, these are things we are so sure of, we don’t even consider the fact that we might be wrong. Like the flat earth theory hundreds of years ago.

Because there so many of these possibilities, I think he was basically just making an argument for humility.

This admission upset a lot of people at the time. I’m not sure why though. I think people thought he was intentionally misleading them.

But the idea stuck.

I can’t remember if he said this, though.  “Unknown knowns”–ideas we’ve never thought of before but agree with once we hear them.

If you’re like me this happens all the time. When we say, “oh yeah, wow, good point, I never thought of that.”

Wouldn’t it be great to come up with these yourself, rather than waiting for them to happen by accident?

Why?

If we create art or start a business, there’s probably some impetus behind it beyond pure financial gain.

But if the reason–the “why”–lies hidden within us, how will we communicate it to potential clients?

How will we attract people as potentially interested in our art or business product as we are?; people who wouldn’t know they wanted what we have until they heard our reasoning behind its creation.

Here’s a suggestion.

Use This Life Hack

I don’t know why life hack is synonymous with the Internet.  Is it because as the world gets more complex/advanced we need useful tricks to solve the problems we still have but no longer have time for?

Wikipedia defines a life hack as “any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency.”

Wikipedia defines philosophy as the study of knowledge and values; the study of what we believe or what we care about.

It seems like what we believe and what we care about would be obvious to us.

It isn’t. Once you take money or survival or pleasure out of the picture, knowing what you care about gets harder.

This Is What Happened

One morning, as I was struggling with an idea, I asked someone to read some writing I was working on.

They read it once and then looked up and asked what it was about. For a second, I was stumped. I could tell they wanted the big picture—and that clearly I’d done a bad job of describing it in the writing.

Then I blurted out, “literary business development.” I said it was about promoting your business ideas and goals through creative content.

Just saying that helped me zero in on my idea. I didn’t know exactly what I was writing about until asked. I knew what I wanted to say. I just didn’t know why. I didn’t ask myself “why”?

This realization was so useful I decided to reverse engineer what led up to it. Maybe it could help you too.

This is what I had done:

First, Thrash

Even if you aren’t sure what your idea is or what you want to do, start by thrashing out whatever idea you have in any way necessary. Writing about it is probably the most standard way. Just start. You’ll be surprised where your ideas take you.

You can talk or sing about it.  It doesn’t matter.

In my case, the day before the above conversation I thrashed out the work on paper for the better part of an afternoon. Writing, typing and retyping.

I wore myself out thinking and writing about what I was trying to say.

You want to thrash out the work first.  Even if you don’t yet know exactly where the work is headed.

Then, Put It Aside Until The Next Morning

Right in the middle of the thrashing, when there are still more questions than answers, put it down and walk away from it.

I put the work away one hour before bed.  I recommend at least two, though.

This lets my brain settle so sleep is actually possible when I want it to be.

Third, And By Far The Most Important, Go To Sleep

It helps if your last cup of coffee was no later than noon. Also, alcohol or late meals can interrupt sleep.  I think because of the sugar in alcohol and carbs.

But while sleeping, your subconscious mind will take up the thrashing torch.  And thank God. We sleep 1/3 of our lives. What would happen if we didn’t get anything done while asleep? I don’t know.

Hopefully, in the morning you’ll find some clarity to your idea, though.  Its where “I’ll sleep on it” comes from.

I need eight hours of sleep and I like to get up at 4:00.  So that puts me in bed by 8:00 pm. Sometimes.

In this case I went to bed at 8:00 and slept till nearly 6:00.  I was really tired. That’s almost ten hours.  I woke up feeling like a newborn baby.

When you’re physically or mentally exhausted, getting more sleep than normal will get you better results.

Fourth, Wake Up And Drink Plenty Of Coffee

I’m not interested in any rants against coffee.  Even if it were bad for you I would still drink it.  Not past noon, though.  Sleep is too important.  Sometimes I fail here, though. And usually I pay for it with a lack of good sleep.

Is there no free lunch?

Coffee equals creativity.

When I woke up I drank four cups of strong coffee while reading something that interested me.

Try and stay away from the Internet for your reading in the morning.

Use a book.  It will feel satisfying to be away from your phone for a while. Make a rule for yourself. Don’t check your phone until four hours after you wake up.

Waking up early enough to follow this rule is peaceful because obviously the closer it gets to everyone else getting going the more tempting it is to correspond.

Every time you reach for your phone, and remember the rule, you’ll feel a little bit of satisfaction when you resist.

If you don’t have a book I recommend a Kindle or Nook. Anything without the Internet.

Have a pen or pencil handy to write down ideas you might have, about anything interesting. Otherwise you’ll try and store them in your head and that’s not good for creativity.

You’ll know when you have an interesting idea. Interesting to you.

Don’t think about your idea or business idea from yesterday yet.  Just wake up slowly, reading something you enjoy.

Fifth, Talk To Someone You Love About Your Idea

Finally, before too long after waking up, 2-3 hours max, call or meet with someone you love and explain your idea/ideas to them from yesterday.

Science shows that when you love someone, interacting with them triggers serotonin in the brain. This makes you feel good and creative.

It doesn’t have to be romantic love, just someone you care about or respect. And preferably not someone you live with. It’s good to create a little professional space here.

But, your ideas will crystallize.  The more you care about this person the more excitement and energy you’ll have explaining your idea.

Once you have it, write it down. Repeat this process with the same idea as often as necessary to completely own the idea.

Literary Business Development

The idea I crystalized was literary business development. I don’t know where it came from. Maybe I heard it somewhere.  Maybe I dreamt it. Maybe it’s a theme that will help you.

Good To Recap

I think the reason the thought crystallized was:

  • I’d thrashed out the work the day before.
  • Then I put the work away at least an hour before bed. Draw a line in the sand and stop working at least one hour before bed, preferably two.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep. I was fresh and well rested the next morning
  • My brain was stimulated with coffee (the benefits of coffee are well documented now; no more guilt about coffee; just enjoy, so long as it doesn’t interrupt sleep; I recommend no coffee after noon)
  • I was excited to talk to this person about my ideas
  • Result: crystallization of idea

This is what worked for me.  Maybe it will work for you.

Why This Is Important

Mass media is dying. The Internet has provided free access to new communication platforms. New and dispersed talent is siphoning off attention from traditional mass media outlets.

We are in a period of disruption. If you can identify and crystallize your message, you can attract some of this wandering attention in your direction.

Your product sells the need it satisfies. You sell the need you satisfy in others. Through your purpose.

I hope that politician, wherever he is, finds some peace. I think he was trying. I think in the end we’re all doing the best we can. I hope this helps you get a little closer to that too.

-Paul

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How Facebook Changed Everything And You Can Too

 

 

How Facebook Changed Everything and You Can Too

My bones rattled.  My ears rang.  The old tractor, as big as a house, plowed over the dry uneven ground.  I bounced so high in the seat I would almost hit the ceiling of the cab.

One time I needed a break.  I killed the engine, climbed down, and walked through the tall grass, ahead of the blade.

Alone, under a big sky, I saw the open prairie; the ground dry and packed, tied together by new roots from the growing season.

Distant rains canvased the blue and white sky, slowing changing shape to the naked eye; framed by the horizon.

Grassy tunnels traversed the undergrowth.  It was home for rabbits, possum, armadillo and hungry coyotes.

It made me both gloomy and happy.

The Gathering Storm

I’d wonder what my friends were doing; who the girls I liked were with.  I could never find out.

Now that mystery is gone and Facebook killed it.  Now we know what's going on all the time.  But experts say loneliness is increasing and that social media is the cause.  I’m not so sure.

Its more likely the erosion of the job community.  A century ago it replaced the traditional communities built around large families.  Now the job community is dwindling too.  And nature hates a vacuum.

Facebook is both replacing and creating new space in modern life;  its changing how we communicate across the map.  The same way the car didn’t create transportation, but revolutionized it.

Cars became about much more than mere transportation.  Cars and the car industry became a whole new thing.  An economy unto itself.  A way to spread wealth, evenly, incrementally and efficiently.  Economy.  A new industry; hobby; asset; thrill, and means of production.  A new business input even.

And so now, Facebook.  It’s integral to  everyday life; personal and business.  How else to explain the sheer numbers?

It’s one of the four most valuable companies in America.  They are:

Amazon with 340,000 employees,

Apple with 116,000 employees,

Google with 57,000 employees, and

Facebook with 17,000 employees.

Each of these companies is now worth over $500 billion a piece.  They’re calling it the race to a $trillion.

The Meaning of Value

All of Facebook's employees could fit into the student section of an average major college football stadium.  Facebook’s market valuation equals $294 million per employee.  While, Amazon’s is less than $2 million per employee.

That means Facebook creates roughly 196 times more value per employee than Amazon.

I want to know what that means for individual businesses and entrepreneurs.  Not from a “how do we leverage Facebook point of view?”, but from a “what is the future of value itself point of view?”

Facebook is worth $500 billion dollars.  Yet, they package no product and you can use their platform for free.

Seventeen years ago, Facebook as a concept didn’t exist.  Even when US Steel was number one it was yet another company supplying building materials.

Same as any other company for hundreds of years, only bigger and more efficient. Somebody probably supplied the stone for the pyramids.

A friend of mine points out that because of Facebook, when you meet up with friends or distant acquaintances there is less to talk about, initially at least.

Maybe Facebook is the destroyer of small talk.  And maybe for some people that’s worth $500 billion all by itself.

And high school reunions are losing popularity.  I guess you already know what everyone’s been up to.  You saw it on Facebook.  That’s powerful.  That's a bellwether.

Facebook, then, creates and eliminates value.  But you can't really eliminate value.  You can only make things irrelevant, moving the locus of the value somewhere else.

An All In One Experience

I can hold all four of these company's products and services in the palm of my hand—and all on one device.  And they’re not even in business together.  Not directly at least.

For 70 years, business has tended towards the bloated corporate structure.  This mirrored the military from WWII.  Now technology is right-sizing these entities.  Excess is being cut away.

Perfect synchronization will soon be upon us; is upon us.  The bloated bureaus and corporations are going to be a thing of the past.

Value will be measured by what I can upload onto that portal in my hand.  Even if you're selling shoes you need to create a story that can fit inside that device.  Else, why should I care?  Aren't there hundreds of shoe companies?

Patagonia makes me feel a certain way.  It's not the fabric.  It's the story.  The definition of value is changing.  Facebook has given us a platform to tell stories.  Through words, pictures, other people's post, our own posts, our politics.  This is value.  Everything beyond shelter and food is story.

At What Cost?

When cars were invented, some people complained that they could no longer get home when they were drunk.  A good horse knew the way home to it's owner’s house.

Cars can’t do that.  Yet.

Henry Ford said that if he’d listened to what his customers wanted he’d have made a better horse.

Nothing is perfect.  Neither is Facebook.  But it is an improved form of communication; the same way cars were just an improved form of transportation (at least according to some).

Notice, however, that neither invention has necessarily been in response to any particular demand.  Just because something provides overwhelming value doesn't mean we wanted it before we had it.  It just means it was inevitable.

Faced with this reality, the question becomes how do individual businesses organize around these new capabilities?  What is the meaning of Facebook's new capability in the future?

There will be others, of course.  Just like we don't all drive Fords today.  But one thing is certain.  We'll never need horses again.  Or maybe never say never.

Rather than responding to demand, these companies create it.  This is what we should do too.  Facebook is nothing without you, me, and all the free content we give it.

We Don't Get What We Need Anymore

US Steel built America after it was clear we would be the sole superpower after all other contenders were decimated in two consecutive world wars.  This is something the world needed at that time.

Somebody had to take the lead.  So, we built American capacity to do it.  Even 19th and early 20th century agriculture and industry were responses to a growing population of immigrant mouths to feed.

But Facebook is different; its a matter of convenience.  It came from nowhere.  It was simply a product of “now we can so now we will.”  It’s the natural progression of wanting better things in our lives.  We get what we want now.  What we need comes afterwards.  We need to evolve to respond to this new technology.

The Sustainable Solution

Are we merely creating virtual experiences in a world where resources are increasingly scarce?  We create the content.  It won't be long before the courts wrestle with this.  How to account for the value provided by the users of Facebook.  Are they owed something back?

Wages for millennials are decreasing relative to previous generations.

I argue wages aren’t necessarily going down--though they appear to be.

What's happening is that purchasable inventory is rising in price.  More people means greater demand for finite resources.

In the ‘50s America had half its current population.  By way of analogy if I have a household of 5, it takes half as much food than if I had a household of 10.

If I add 5, someone has to pay for the needs of the additional 5.  In America, as in many first world countries, all 10 pitch in.  Not only the most recently added 5.  "We're all in this together", could be the logo on our currency.

The burden gets spread somewhat evenly.  More is purchased but not quite as much as would be needed to equal the same portion per member as when there were only 5.  The law of diminishing returns.

So, resources are stretched, they become relatively more scarce, and prices rise.  But as usual, human nature is slow to catch up.  We want what we want.

Facebook is the most direct response to this.  Its pure value.  Almost no overhead.

It provides experience even when the means for having them are increasingly pricey.  We retreat into the mind, and into the virtual world.  Facebook is a picture of the actual world; not the same as the actual world.

The same should be said of your company or your idea.  How will it add to the sum of human experience?  What deep seated fulfillment can it provide you and by extension, your tribe of customers?  How can it "reach" people before they even buy it?

Look to the sustainable solution.  That is where the value is being found now.

The Big Four Lead

Facebook provided the platform.  Apple provided the tools.  Google provided the material, and Amazon is our after-hours indulgence.  Amazon fills the space in between these connections.  Its pure entertainment.

Ask yourself this question.  What is value today?  Where do I fit into this formula?  Do I connect people?  Do I dig up information for them?  Do I make connections possible?  Do I provide content?  Do I provide a platform?

In today’s economy, its historically easy to do what humans spent nearly all of their time doing for 99.99% of natural history; locating food and defending oneself.

Only 0.4% of Americans are in active military service in defense of the homeland.

Only 2% of Americans are directly engaged in farming to feed the homeland.  So, 2.4% of Americans sustain all the rest?  To some degree.  So, what’s left?  Where does the economy come from?

This makes it difficult to be "indispensable" as Seth Godin talks about in his essential read “Lynchpin.”  The big four have shown us the way.

Don't Wait to Be Chosen

James Altucher did something interesting about a year ago.  People kept asking him how he conquered fear--not once and for all--but every day, again and again.

His answer?  A book called “Choose yourself.”  His book is approaching 1,000,000 in sales.  He talks about how now, more than ever, you have the tools at your disposal to go around the traditional gatekeepers of success.

Not one of the Big Four is brick and mortar.  It’s all ethereal.  Ghost businesses.  In a way they chose themselves; they chose their ideas about value.

It’s like finance but with an actual value underlying it.  Finance just exploits the spread between the haves and the have-nots.  They have capital and so we need them.

We don't need the big four.  We want them.  But now that they have us, we sort of need to join them; with our content; meaning; inspiration; art; in all its infinite capacities.

If I want to become indispensable today I must ask what is my contribution to this world of streamed online-content?

How do I create story around my brand, my product, my service?

Give

A friend of mine always says—give love, get love.  The rest he just does.  He’s a natural.  I’m not.  Some of us have to work for a living.

It’s giving and expecting nothing in return.  If that is hard, then I need to trick myself.  Trick myself into believing I expect nothing in return.

If art is given with the anticipation of a return then it ceases to be art.  Seth Godin taught me that.  He's a mentor of mine and I've never met him.  I did read his book "Lynchpin" though.  Find your business mentors.

Art is an end in itself.  Google did this.  Facebook did this.  Amazon did this.  Microsoft did this initially with their software.

I can do this.  I'm not on a tractor anymore.  But I can still see the horizon from my window.  I know its there, its in the mind, and I can share it as a gift.

-Paul

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