Never Normal Newsletter

Building a Personal Monopoly and the New American Dream

Last week I wrote to you about Useful Childhoods, College Admissions Knife Fights, and My Story. This week is about the New American Dream and how to achieve it.

Risky Business?

I got sucked into an interesting Twitter discussion yesterday on the “economic precarity” that people making a living in the creator economy face.

While I’m sympathetic to the idea that individual people who make money online are virtually powerless against the big social media and tech platforms that they rely on to generate their income…

(Even more so now that I’ve had my own “brush with the law” — I was temporarily kicked off of twitter last week because of something I wrote.)

I think it’s wrong to assume that most traditional jobs are safer in the long run.

Seth Godin explains why in “The Forever Recession” (excepted below):

Why do we believe that jobs where we are paid really good money to do work that can be systemized, written in a manual and/or exported are going to come back ever? The internet has squeezed inefficiencies out of many systems, and the ability to move work around, coordinate activity and digitize data all combine to eliminate a wide swath of the jobs the industrial age created.

There’s a race to the bottom, one where communities fight to suspend labor and environmental rules in order to become the world’s cheapest supplier. The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win…

Factories were at the center of the industrial age. Buildings where workers came together to efficiently craft cars, pottery, insurance policies and organ transplants–these are job-centric activities, places where local inefficiencies are trumped by the gains from mass production and interchangeable parts. If local labor costs the industrialist more, he has to pay it, because what choice does he have?…

When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a ‘real’ job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn’t a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

It’s been ten years since Seth wrote that, but most people still haven’t figured this out.

It reminds me of the coyote in those old Road Runner cartoons. We’ve already run past the edge of the cliff, the only question is when will we look down.

The American Dream is Dead. Long Live the American Dream!

Love her, hate her, or pretend you don’t know anything about her, but Kim Kardashian is the most influential person on the planet.

Not just because of her impact on beauty and fashion trends. But because Kim is the pioneer of the New American Dream (which is by no means limited to just Americans).

The New American Dream is to get paid for being yourself.

A recent survey found that being a YouTube star was a more sought-after profession than being an astronaut for kids in the US and the UK.

And an entire generation of teenage and twenty-something aspiring influencers are living their lives on the tip of Maslow’s pyramid, hoping to amass enough followers to land a brand deal so that they can fill in the lower levels.​

But “getting paid for being yourself” doesn’t have to mean showing off your assets on social media while trying to convince your followers to use the same brand of toothpaste as you do.

It’s about doing the work that you are uniquely capable of doing.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde

David Perell calls this your “Personal Monopoly“:

The ultimate goal of building a personal brand is to have a “Personal Monopoly.” You want to be known as the best thinker in a skill or a topic. A Personal Monopoly is the unique intersection of your knowledge, personality, and skills that nobody else can compete with.

While the concept of a Personal Monopoly is not new, the Internet magnifies the benefits of having one. There is a large pay gap between people who have a Personal Monopoly and people who don’t.

But the benefits go beyond economics…

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.

Bob Dylan

This is the journey I’m on right now and I’m taking you with me.

More soon…

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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