decentralized, software-enabled, and independent

this past week i interviewed sahil lavingia, the ceo of gumroad (an online selling platform). he told me that he believed the future of work was going to be decentralized, software-enabled, and small. you don’t even have to predict the future on this one, he told me. it’s already starting and you can see evidence of it around us.

my whole mission is to assist with the transition from the “old trappings” of 9-5. one friend i spoke with said that it was almost like i was a doula for the future, which i don’t think is too far off as a metaphor. what i appreciate about sahil is that he welcomes the future of work with open arms, and encourages others on twitter to try and fail and try and fail again and again, because together we are proceeding into uncharted territory.

this week, i’m excited to speak to an audience of my peers about some of the things i am working on. i am afraid that some people may not understand where i am coming from, or not recognize the importance of adjusting to the impending changes to the structure of our workdays. the talk is fun, informative, but i think it scratches the topmost layer of what i am thinking most weeks. i hope it goes well, and at the very least i am pleased that it is happening.

i’ve been promoting the hell out of this thing (it’s this week on july 31st in seattle, washington, link here) but worry not if you can’t make it – at least two people will be filming it and we’ll push it to youtube as soon as possible.

my friends inspire me

perry is a co-worker of mine. he’s in his twenties, and makes a living doing cafe maintenance. i asked him what he does for fun and he told me, “well, i’m building a boat.”

“what? how?”

perry laughed. “you can pretty much learn anything on the internet these days. sure, if i was formally trained i could probably do a better job and make less mistakes. but you can learn a lot of the basics on youtube.”

next, i talked to nelson, a friend who likes to talk about philosophy. “i know a lot of philosophy isn’t immediately useful, but i like learning about it because it’s stimulating.” nelson picks up dense philosophy books from the bookstore, and uses youtube and google to further research terms and concepts that he wants to know more about.

lastly, my friend nat tells me that they are so impressed by how much their friends know. “it seems like everyone knows so much stuff about random subjects. i want to be one of those people, but i don’t know where to get started.”

more and more, when i ask friends how they got good at their hobbies or work, they’ll tell me “youtube” or “google”. this is super exciting to me, and also checks out with how i’ve been learning to program. i embark on a project, get stuck, then google my problem. i look at other people’s code, watch people on youtube, then try again. soon, i am better than i was before without having to set foot in a physical classroom.

the people i want to help are the people like nat – they know they can learn anything but need someone to help them figure out their interests. cultivating curiosity, building your own curriculum, these things don’t necessarily come naturally to folks who are used to sitting in a classroom and having a teacher tell them what they need to learn. i am lucky to know so many interest-driven learners, and i am currently inspired to lend a hand to those who want to become one.

reading isn’t enough

i just read this article that my friend lito sent me. its thesis is that books and lectures aren’t very good at getting their message across. this is kind of true: books and lectures do nothing if they are not applied and used.

your brain remembers what it uses and forgets what it doesn’t. this is the basis for how a lot of things stay. you could study memory for a long time and discover its peculiarities, but basically if you want to learn something and remember it, you must have some sort of external pressure to actually use the information.

this is something i could talk at length about, but let’s talk about books for a moment briefly. every time i read something, i write about it or talk about it. i am in the habit of always using what i read so that it stays in my brain. for this reason, i am also self-guided to certain books and subjects that are immediately useful. this could be called interest.

from college onwards, i have learned that some of the best research comes from focused play. if you are following your intuition and interest, you are using the information you consume, and playing with it. in turn, you will remember it , and truly know and absorb what you read.