The fundamentals of how we make a living have evolved over the past few centuries. The changes were brought about by the Industrial Revolution and have accelerated alongside technological advances. Allow me to show you a gross oversimplification to illustrate my point:
- The distant past-1840: Doing things we hate for ourselves. We worked our parents’ trade and ran our own businesses. If you enjoyed painting but your family was in the cobbling business, you were out of luck. You would have to choose between doing what you hated for a living or doing what you loved and dying poor.
- Turning point: The rise of factories
- 1840-1990: Doing things we hate for someone else. We did what our bosses wanted us to do for the benefit of the company. Slavery was an extreme example. As long as you did what you were told, whether you liked it or not, you could make a living.
- Turning point: The rise of the Internet
- 1990-present: Doing things we love for someone else. The internet has removed geographical boundaries. We can now find companies that do what we enjoy and join them. You can easily communicate with anyone anywhere in the world and do work for them. If your dream job is in Alaska, you can just move to Alaska with relative ease.
- Turning point: Who knows?
- The future: Doing things we love for ourselves? Running your own business doing what you love. “The Gig Economy.” The trends point to this as being the next step in the evolution of business. Nobody knows what the turning point will be. On the negative side, perhaps an economic collapse where corporations no longer make sense. On the positive side (which I believe to be more likely), it may be the rise of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, all of the above, or something entirely different.
The rise of factories in the 19th century killed off the industry for hand-making items in small batches. The rise of the internet continues to ruin the market for cheap, unskilled labor. The next turning point will likely propel us into an era of specialized individuals providing work on-demand.
As the library of human knowledge increases, we can no longer know most of everything. Instead, we can only hope to know most of something. Our traditional education system fails now because there is too much knowledge to learn. College students are graduating only to realize that very little of what they learned in college is applicable to their new jobs. We must specialize earlier. Perhaps every student should choose one or more specializations by the 6th grade. That would allow more time to specialize in subjects that will be relevant to each student’s future career.
How can you stay ahead of the curve? By finding some skill you’re passionate about developing. Take that skill and practice it on your spare time. Run a side business selling your product or services.