Work A Day

Thirty-seven years. That’s how long I’ve been a worker, in one form or another.

That’s way too long. Let me clarify: that’s way too long to work in a conventional ten-hours-per-day-weekends-off arrangement. Spending a fixed amount of time per day creating wealth for someone else sounds so Dickensian. Visions of 18th century English cotton mills and coal mines come to mind. I shudder at the horror.

And yet we still keep this as the standard model. This worked (pardon the pun) when everyone’s input to the workplace was more-or-less equal.

For drones, this is acceptable. But if you created something brilliant, or applied insight to solve a problem or became supremely popular with clients and customers, your worth was aggregated with everybody else. Sure, bonuses and awards help, but you’re still rewarded by a paycheck reflecting your peers’ ability, not your own.

So perhaps it works for most folks…but definitely not all.

If we lived in a task or goal-oriented world, this would not stand. If you have a specific goal and achieve that with two hours of work per day, why must you stay for another six? Isn’t a half-day of focused activity better than a whole say spent mostly cruising Amazon? Get your work done, and go do something else.

This is why people – ambitious and adventurous people – create a job for themselves. This used to be known as starting your own business, but I like to think about it differently. First, create a job. Find others to come along for the ride. Then remove yourself from your job and have others run things (profitably) for you. That’s when you’ve created a business.

Wednesday’s Troll Update

More insane jibber-jabber from isolated eggheads today. Fed funds rate: unch.

I find it too depressing for words that the world stops for this nonsense. Actually, the heartening thing is that only the financial world stops: everyone else, you and I, continue with our business.

In a way, that encapsulates the problem. Aunt Janet and her posse think the world is financial markets. That is a direct result of the financialization of everything that moves, which creates an awful feedback loop. Markets must be ginned, so let’s do something, and when they don’t react, let’s do some more, oh wait, they’re over-reacting, let’s do less…until the powerful ignore everything else.

Everything else is what we do. We work, we earn, we spend, we save, we invest, we sell, we start businesses, we attempt to multiply our assets; this is what used to be known as the “real” economy.

Unfortunately, elites find the real economy uncontrollable. Chaos does not react so well to central authority. Much easier for those authorities to focus on simple stuff, like keeping big banks and big business happy. They appreciate much more the gifts Aunt Janet bestows.

Let the peasants sup on what sluices down from the castles. They’ll learn to love it. In time.

Alignment

Foolish as it is, my job has taught me a few worthwhile lessons. Not lessons to justify nearly five years (five years!) of ridiculousness, but still.

When I employ people in the future I will find a way to align their motives with mine. At the coal mine, my goal is simply to take the money they offer in return for my labour. Their goal is to fulfill the promises and contractual obligations made to their customers. These two aren’t well aligned, in my opinion.

Nothing will ever be perfect. 100% agreement between employed and employer 100% of the time is not a reasonable goal. What I think is reasonable is to structure the work before they even turn up so that what they do each hour puts us both in the same boat, going the same speed toward the same destination.

How to do that? The first place to start is to communicate precisely what your business or organizational goals are. To ourselves. While this might sound fundamental, clearly articulating this kind of thing can reveal inconsistencies and misalignments in our own thinking, that of management or owners.

After that, figure how to make non-owners apply their time and skills to tasks that keep the boat moving ahead of the sharks. Did I mention it was a lifeboat? We’re all in lifeboats, and thinking of business that way adds piquancy, don’t you think?

Supply. Oh, and Demand.

Supply and demand work. With the drop in the price of gasoline, Americans ran to dealerships and “bought” more and more SUVs, light “trucks” and other assorted high-consumption pieces of junk.

In fact, no-one is buying these bloated highway blimps. They lease or borrow for what amounts to a mileage-for-dollars deal. When all of these clapped-out wrecks hit the used market in five (five! good Lord!) years the price action remains to be seen, but supply and demand will work magic then, too.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if even a small fraction of these people thought outside their narrow fat-automobile rut and bought smaller cars. As if gas prices were still $4 per gallon. If we keep consumption of gas declining (relatively and even absolutely) don’t we then keep the price going south? Is there a virtue in not responding to market signals?

In any case, money saved on gas is money saved, no matter the percentage. I’m planning to stick to that plan.