"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." — Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
I thought of the Heinlein quote above when I spotted this at Global Guerrillas: http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/
I also thought immediately of my oldest daughter, Hannah, a sophomore at Southern Miss who is going to be a successful entrepreneur some day.
JOURNAL: I'm Young and Need Advice
Over the last couple of years, lots of young people (from high school through recent college graduates) have asked me:
What should I be doing to prepare myself for an uncertain future?
Since I get this question a couple of times a week, I'd thought I'd publish it for posterity. To the extent it's useful (it may be utter trash), here it is:
You will need train yourself to be an entrepreneur, to run your own business. This requires an ability to do everything from designing your own products to selling products to keeping the books straight.
That being said, you should still go to college (if you haven't already). For the most part, it's not going to play much of a factor in how you make your living in the future (for most people). Instead, do it because it improves you as a human being. Learn about everything you can while you are there, from philosophy to physics. However, don't spend much money doing it (state universities are more than good enough).
How do you prepare for making a living?
Here's the maximal strategy for those that can pull it off (I'm assuming that if you are reading my work and you understand it, you certainly have the smarts to pull it off).
Learn to make/repair things. Learn computer aided design CAD/CAM. Ride the wave in learning laser etching, 3D printing, and other fabrication techniques. Learn how to use traditional tools and explore materials science and basic electronics/circuit design. Hack existing products (copy what others have done to spool up on the process) to improve them or put them to unintended uses. Add some biohacking to the mix if you are so inclined.
Learn how to communicate/collaborate with others online. Better yet, learn how to use a scripting language and design/operate an interactive Web site. Learn how to build a database and structure/share data (xml). Get the hang of publishing online and building/growing an audience -- it's a great way not only to market product/yourself, but find collaborators on ventures.
With the skills above in hand you are now capable of converting a wide variety of ideas into thriving entrepreneurial ventures (from scratch and for a pittance).
The final layer you need to succeed is to learn about running a business. The most important thing you need to learn is how to sell. Take any job that puts you close to a GREAT salesman. Learn the process, from finding customers to closing contracts. As a final layer, teach yourself some small business accounting (it provides discipline).
In short, this is what you need to become a one person company and be routinely successful.
NOTE: In reflection, this recipe is also a route to become a one man/woman army.
Posted by John Robb on Monday, 26 October 2009