Internet Earthquakes Passionate Plane Rides
Kris Drummond | Wednesday Feb. 1st, 2017
The tectonic plates of the society we’ve long known are shifting; low, lethargic rumbles, nearly imperceptible, yet capable of tearing continents apart. The security we think we have doesn’t seem so certain; the question mark of the future looms ever larger, even in the cataracted eye of the cultural mind.
Living to achieve “security” has been the ostensible goal of the American Dream since, arguably, the Great Depression. Panicked ambition in the guise of capitalism is the undertone of our national mood. Turn to any of the “financial channels” and listen to the urgent voices of the anchors. Ticker indexes bounce around the screen and commercials fill the empty space. And all of it carrying an unheard, ever-present whisper: “Work faster, longer, better, and maybe the swimming pool will be yours. The 401K. The long-awaited and hard-earned rest.”
It’s a nice dream. And one that came true for some--maybe even most--people for a solid two generations. But like everything else right now, that dream is transforming.
I guess that’s a nice way of putting it. More accurately, that dream is dying. My generation will never see social security, retirement plans…hell we might not even have a habitable planet when it comes time to build the dream home. And while it’s an uncomfortable truth, it gets more obvious every day. A recent news report detailing a potential 7 degree Celsius rise in global temperature carries the great irony of being published while a man who wants to dismantle the EPA has just taken the wheel of the country. Seven degrees isn’t “sea-level rise.” It’s the end of our species. And when the word “trillion” follows a two digit number in reference to the national debt, it becomes clear that the amount of made-up money propping up our system is beyond anyone’s comprehension or control. Soon the financial algorithms that dictate an abstracted society will catch up to themselves.
While inflation has steadily increased, “the average salary for people ages 18-35 has gone from $36,000 in 1992 to $33,000 now, and it’s only getting lower.” says Susie Moore for Business Insider UK. A bachelor’s degree doesn’t really mean anything anymore, and the debt incurred to get one hardly justifies the end result. Outside of a narrow band of culturally-defined career paths like medicine or engineering, employment in the modern world is a crap shoot.
This quote from Rutgers professor James Livingston sums it up pretty nicely: “These days, everybody from Left to Right – from the economist Dean Baker to the social scientist Arthur C Brooks, from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump – addresses this breakdown of the labour market by advocating ‘full employment’, as if having a job is self-evidently a good thing, no matter how dangerous, demanding or demeaning it is. But ‘full employment’ is not the way to restore our faith in hard work, or in playing by the rules, or in whatever else sounds good. The official unemployment rate in the United States is already below 6 per cent, which is pretty close to what economists used to call ‘full employment’, but income inequality hasn’t changed a bit. Shitty jobs for everyone won’t solve any social problems we now face.”
I guess what I and so many others are saying is there’s no Valhalla of “security” at the end of the career tunnel. Not for much longer, anyway. Many are waking up to this truth and choosing to live differently, valuing creativity and passion and living over the endless chase for a certainty that will never exist. Rather than spending years building with organizations doing work they don’t care about, these people are taking the risk of following their passion. Almost every day, I see a traveling van or two parked outside Main street coffee shops, while the owners sit inside on their computers, presumably making money while living their dream. In almost every cafe in Bozeman, at any point throughout the day, “freelancers” can be found. From writers to designers to entrepreneurs, increasing numbers of people are using the tools of technology to take back their lives.
It’s a scary thing to see the bankruptcy of our cultural mythos, and scarier still to consider embarking into uncharted territory. There’s no safety nets in the passion game. There is only the knowing that a better way must exist, and an inability to ignore the gnawing any longer. It may sound unlikely that such options are possible, that people can actually carve out a passionate life. But it is possible. The internet is the most revolutionary tool humankind has ever known, an equalizing force that brings creative power and information to many who didn’t have such opportunities even ten years ago. And now is the time to jump in.
To prove my point, I caught up with lifelong friend and travelling entrepreneur, Thayer Janes, to talk about the payoffs of running a company from the computer.
KD: Explain what inspires you about your business and the lifestyle it allows you to lead.
TJ: I absolutely love to travel and when I started my business, I had one goal: I wanted to be able to work from anywhere.
I knew travel would always be a part of who I am so I figured why not combine it with business to see if it could work. It inspires me that I can work to the beat of my own drum. I can wake up when I want, I don’t have to rush out the door, so I’m never late, and I can enjoy my time with my family. It just makes life so much better.
I really want to inspire others to do the same. I want people to start thinking in different ways and live better. I think as a culture, especially as Americans, we get stuck in these patterns and loops that hold us back from our true potential.
We are taught to believe in things that just aren’t true anymore. The world is in such a unique place to be able to do these things and see these things that have never been possible. I want to inspire people to get out of their comfort zones, take risks and follow their dreams.
KD: Describe the reasons you have moved away from the conventional life. Describe the challenges, fears, and joys of taking that path.
TJ: I think we are so often taught to do this, do that. We are programmed to think in ways, and that didn’t make much sense to me anymore. Once I got back to the United States, I really saw a flaw in the system. We have so much, yet we have so little. We lack in our relationships and our priorities here in the US. It was so apparent to me in all the countries I visited that their relationships were valued over almost anything else. The work day was shorter, family was always first and people just seemed happier. It was refreshing and it lead to starting a business that could cater to those things.
It was important for me to put my relationships first and make sure I had the time and flexibility to spend time with the ones I loved. It’s been one of the greatest things about my life thus far, being able to work on my own schedule, spend time with family and build relationships with people.
KD: How does working for yourself, staying creative, and engaging with the world affect you and your relationships?
TJ: It’s a little cliché, but I swear as soon as I started following my heart and staying true to my goals, everything started to fall into place. It took a while, but I kept pushing and everything eventually came to be. I think that’s a good lesson and true for many things in life, whether in business, relationships, or living life; it’s so important to follow your dreams and listen to your heart. It’s one of the best feelings ever to finally feel like you are right where you need to be.
KD: What scares you about this lifestyle?
TJ: Like everyone else, I have doubts about myself from time to time. I doubt if this is the right direction, the right business or the right socially accepted path. Those feelings tend to pass but it can be hard sometimes. I feel like I have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The angel tells me to follow my heart and break away from the so-called norm and on the other side, the devil tells me to get a cushy job in a big city with health insurance and a high salary. Most days, I tell that devil to shut up. But sometimes it gets the better of me.
If I have learned anything through my travels and my life thus far, it’s that I need to continue to take risks and face my fears. I truly believe we grow as humans more when we are faced with adversity and fear. I think going into business is no different. Yes it’s scary and a little uncomfortable for a while but once you get there, there’s nothing like it.
KD: How do people get started?
TJ: The first thing is to just go for it. Make a goal and stick to it. I started super small by cruising Craigslist and looking for random jobs that allowed me to be mobile. There are also websites that cater to finding remote jobs.
The second thing is, learn as much as possible. The internet is full of online courses, Youtube instructional videos, and free college courses. Take as many as possible; start playing with different programs. Many of my clients require a wide range of skill sets and the more you know, the better off you’ll be.
Go travel. Get out there. See the world. Experience new things. See how people live. I guarantee you will come back and see the world as a different place. Your priorities will change.
Thayer is co-founder and project manager of Social Current, LLC, an online marketing agency specializing in digital marketing, online advertising and social media. He also runs a company called Mapped Creative, a media company that specializes in content marketing and brand storytelling.