As a society, Americans have - in ways both implicit and explicit - come to accept that employability is one of the most important goals for which we should strive. The government is always working to get citizens back to work. Grade schools and colleges are endlessly producing employees. Corporations are asked to create new jobs and keep existing jobs at home. This system lives on because generations of people have been conditioned to believe that employability in and of itself can be manufactured, much like a product, and sustained like an industry.
This is a great way for society to subsist if its primary goal is to manufacture physical products. In this way, all resources - material or human - are simply small pieces on a giant assembly line. And for individuals looking to develop skills & traits that map cleanly to guaranteed employability, there couldn’t be a better system.
Unfortunately, capitalistic societies cannot just invent economic systems from scratch. Rather, models must emerge from reality, and those models must change as reality itself evolves.
We now live in a post-industrial society, and our existing system is showing its age. Now, one great idea, a relatively small team, and a killer distribution model can create more economic value than Detroit in its heyday. And in a Darwinian world like that - where a few dozen people can create & bend entire markets - employability takes a backseat to innovation.
After having this conversation in one form or another over the past decade, I’ve found that folks generally fit into three camps:
- This new economy is empowering
- This new economy is hopeless
- There is no new economy; there is only an old economy that needs reviving (denial)
The entrepreneurs & “makers” that I know generally fit into camp #1. Many others have gradually shifted from camp #3 to camp #2 over time.
For those folks in camp #2, it’s easy to mistake empowerment with loss of control. After all, the employability model was stable. It was well-understood. It was… guaranteed.
My view is that America itself was founded on the principles of camp #1. Entrepreneurs understand that the reason this post-industrial shift is so empowering is because it puts power back where it belongs - not with government, and not with large corporations, but with individuals.
In a model that’s updated for post-industrial times, we are all responsible for our own prosperity. Governments, schools and companies don’t create jobs. We do. Those entities don’t dictate what makes us employable. We do. Nobody fits into an existing bucket; buckets are formed around individuals.
We only need to give up one thing in exchange for this individual empowerment: our societal entitlement. By accepting entitlement to nothing, we create a new mental model that empowers us to accomplish anything. And if enough people choose to create this mental model, it will eventually become a model for society itself.
Let’s do it. Onward and upward.