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Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

As the cliche goes, when one door closes another opens. On the economic front, there have been a lot of closing doors as businesses contract, outsource staff, and shed employees. Welcome to the new normal. So where are the open doors?

For makers, there are many and arguably more than ever before.

Two items on this subject caught my eye. One was a rather over-the-top, but I think grounded screed on the state of the economy by James Altucher in TechCrunch entitled “10 Reasons Why 2013 Will Be The Year You Quit Your Job.” The other was an inspiring video featuring tech investor Chris Devore touting the arrival of the “maker moment.” Taken together they add up to another well-worn phase: These are the best of times. These are the worst of times.

Here’s James on the worst of times:

You’ve been replaced. Technology, outsourcing, a growing temp staffing industry, productivity efficiencies, have all replaced the middle class. The working class. Most jobs that existed 20 years ago aren’t needed now. Maybe they never were needed. The entire first decade of this century was spent with CEOs in their Park Avenue clubs crying through their cigars, “how are we going to fire all this dead weight?” 2008 finally gave them the chance. “It was the economy!” they said. The country has been out of a recession since 2009. Four years now. But the jobs have not come back. I asked many of these CEOs: did you just use that as an excuse to fire people, and they would wink and say, “let’s just leave it at that.”

He argues that now is the time to make the leap and leave your dead-end job:

The myth of corporate safety, of rising up through the ranks, of getting the gold watch, of getting applauded by your peers is over. Not because the economy is bad. But because innovation and the global economy are better than ever.

If that’s too doomsday for you, watch Chris’ rousing 5:34-minute talk at Ignite. It’s about the opportunity “digital creatives,” i.e. software developers, have before them. I think his analysis applies hardware developers–makers–too.

He says for the first time in the history of western capitalism “talent has more leverage in the economy than capital. This has never happened before. This is a unique moment and this will not last forever.”  He goes on:

We all want to make meaning with our lives. We all want to do something that matter. And often the question is ‘can I make meaning? How do I make meaning?’ For makers the question is now can or how it’s what kind of impact do you want to have? You have incredible power in your hands.

What do you think? Best of times? Worst of times? Or like Charles Dickens wrote: Both?

Stett Holbrook

Stett is a senior editor at MAKE with abiding interest in food and drink, bicycles, woodworking, and environmentally sound human enterprises. He is the father of two young makers.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

Contact Stett with tips and story ideas on:

*Food
*Sustainable/green design
*Science
*Young Makers
*Action sports


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Comments

  1. chuck says:

    ‘The myth of corporate safety, of rising up through the ranks, of getting the gold watch, of getting applauded by your peers is over.’
    While I understand and agree with this statement in this context, I do disagree slightly with the last bit. If ‘getting applauded by your peers’ is taken to mean being celebrated for your ‘work’ (little ‘w’), your labor and drudgery under the thumb of management, then what are we really losing? As for being recognized for our ‘Work’ (big ‘W’), the outcome of our passion and dedicaion, we have never had more outlets for exchanging ideas, encouraging and teaching one another, and recognizing greatness in our own community. I’m not talking about the kind of recognition that comes from officially sanctioned corporate channels or the old boys’ networks of professional organizations and journals, but real boots-in-the-mud peer review and input. This instant access to community that the internet has brought us is one of the pillars of the maker movement and one of the biggest reasons for its growth. It’s like the Weight Watchers model- success is insured through encouragement and the positive peer pressure of the community. We can’t fail when there’s a legion of us propping each other up. This goes beyond the hobbyist to the maker business owner as well.
    There is a lot of opportunity out there to make a comfortable living doing something you like to do. We have tools for research, marketing and manufacturing that our fathers couldn’t even imagine. We also have a lot more competition than ever before. Not everyone will be successful selling 3d printed jewelry on Etsy or developing yet another Arduino clone, but if you offer innovation and good design these are the best times ever.

    1. Luke says:

      “There is a lot of opportunity out there to make a comfortable living doing something you like to do. We have tools for research, marketing and manufacturing that our fathers couldn’t even imagine. We also have a lot more competition than ever before. Not everyone will be successful selling 3d printed jewelry on Etsy or developing yet another Arduino clone, but if you offer innovation and good design these are the best times ever.”

      I really could not have said this better, Chuck. I felt the same way while reading the TechChrunch article.

  2. From the TechCrunch piece:

    “I have never once seen anyone save the increase in their salary.” and

    “7) Your Retirement Plan is For S**t. I don’t care how much you set aside for your 401k. It’s over. ”

    This shows how ignorant the writer is. There are people out there who do this. They are the ones who have achieved financial independence and who do things like retire early. Just because the writer has never seen it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Living below your means is a key to happiness and success, regardless of industry or salary (assuming a baseline salary that can fulfill your actual needs).

    The trick is not to find what you love and do it. What you love doing may pay peanuts. The trick is to spend less than what you make, save and invest (no, not necessarily the stock market, it can be other investments), and get to the point where you have “!@#$ you” money”: enough to walk away from a position that isn’t healthy for you.

    You don’t necessarily need to be a maker or to follow the writer’s advice to do this….but it can be done.

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