Every Day is Labor Day

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

Capitalism is probably the most efficient culture-bending device ever created. By practicing capitalism, we enable a forward ratchet. If there is a demand for some change, the ratchet turns and grinds forward to create supply for meeting the demand. Capitalism mobilizes itself to satisfy the demand, and in its wakes, create more demand.

In every corner of every industry, there are people with a stopwatch inspired by scientific management trying to figure out how to make it so that the worker can be the interchangeable parts. The people who own the machines relentlessly push to make many jobs as trivial as they can to make humans replaceable cog in a giant system. If the worker is easily replaceable, the capitalists would not have to pay the worker extra. The factory/industrial owners also will not get caught in a jam if the worker quits.

Today, there is a different sort of labor, and this is the labor of craft and skill. It is the work that requires emotional labor as much as physical labor by being fully present and showing up with emotion and humanity to do a job that can’t be done by an AI. This sort of labor is a real challenge for many people because we have grown up in schools where we waited for someone to tell us what to do.

When we are practicing the emotional labor and craftsmanship on our way to becoming a linchpin, it requires skills, ingenuity, and intuition. When we strive to be a linchpin, we are responsible for deciding how we will change the person we were engaging with. When we run our gig, we learn what it means to be an entrepreneur and an artist in the world that has a ratchet pushing forward with scale.

Other than being a freelancer or an entrepreneur, the bootstrapper is another approach for doing the work. Bootstrapping based on the idea that we can build an entity bigger than ourselves and, at the same time, that entity can change our customers for the better. Bootstrapped entities also get funded by our customers, not by investors. If those customers need us to exist and are willing to fund our effort, we no longer need to raise money from the investors. Bootstrapping is about having the opportunity to show up for a community and say, “I want to make this and who wants to come along.”

There are four different kinds of bootstrapping. The first one is a jobber. The jobber is someone who brings something from here to there and fills a need. It is the act of providing access to people who want access to whatever it is and wherever they are. The second method of bootstrapping is to be a coordinator. The coordinator, or the impresario, pull the pieces of a show and make the show happen. The event would not be here if the coordinator had not organized it.

The third kind of bootstrapper is the labor organizer. It is akin to a contractor building a house. She puts together teams of people in the right place and at the right time. She deals with all the details and the next thing we know the house has been built. The fourth example of bootstrapping is someone who owns an asset. The bootstrapper uses the asset to manufacture products or perform services for the customers in the community.

What we have now is a chance to think more deeply about the freedom of being independent and doing work that we can be proud of. We can use what we make and change the culture in a certain way on purpose. We can also claim ownership of our work and be a contributor to our community with the work that matters. “Go make a ruckus” is to go find the freedom to own the work we are doing and not to simply be a cog in the industrial machine. The labor now rests on being an independent actor with the freedom to make change happen.