Growing up in the 60s, I remember there used to be a very close correlation between the resources, technology, and rules that a city, state, country, or international block offered to its citizens.
If I’d grown up in the Soviet Union, I would’ve been exposed to a highly political system where everything was evaluated against the rules of communism and controlled down to the last detail.
If I’d grown up in the United States, I would’ve been in the middle of a freedom of ideas cultural revolution while the economy was plagued by runaway inflation. Taxes were high and the value of working for a traditional company was challenged without having a good alternative.
If I’d grown up in China, I would’ve seen some similar conditions as Russia, initially. But then in the last 30 years, I would’ve been part of an unbelievable trip aboard an economic rocket ship rewarding flexibility, political conformity, and the ability to adjust to new opportunities.
But I grew up in Europe, where the scars of two world wars were still present, the economies were still recovering, the political system was searching for new alliances, and the accepted way to move forward was to keep the traditional approaches to work in place while hoping to create a foundation from which new things could emerge.
China and its new 9-9-6 worktime system
What made China so different than all the other places in this relatively short period of time is the ability to use accomplishments as both a source of pride and a source of energy to keep moving forward.
Though highly controversial, the new 9-9-6 worktime system is seen as an improvement by many tycoons and is becoming a way to celebrate some of these accomplishments.
The 996 system means you work from 9 AM to 9 PM, 6 days a week. In most places in Europe, the United States, Russia, etc. this would be considered enormously long. I remember when I graduated, the rave was to get closer and closer to the 35-hour workweek. We thought technology would allow us to work less while being equally or more productive.
Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba, is seen as one of the people encouraging this 996- approach. He publicly stated:
“I personally believe that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing. If you don’t put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?”
This was met by massive uproars on social media, with people from the working class condemning the system by stating:
“Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, or the children who need company? If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children because of a lack of time.”
So what does the future hold? Do we all need to embrace the 9-9-6 worktime system to remain competitive?
Personally, I think this is the wrong question.
Talent is our new currency
When we have severe disruptions challenging the norms, like COVID19, we’d be wise to look at options for the future.
The pandemic demonstrated to the working people across the globe that there are many more jobs that can be done from a place away from the traditional office cubical. I’d go as far as proclaiming that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s possible when working with a laptop, great software, a reliable internet connection, and, most importantly, the innovative energy and talent of people using this technology.
Here’s what I think will be most important for anybody starting a career now or contemplating what a career after the pandemic will look like:
We don’t need a cubicle or a specific place to go to in order to get work done. What we all need (except for actual manufacturing tasks) is talent.
You better make sure you have or acquire the talents, skills, and capabilities in demand in the new emerging economies. COVID19 has accelerated this development. Even traditional companies will have a hard time making the case for us to go back to being stuck in traffic several hours a day to sit in an uncomfortable cubicle using our laptop when we can do the same work from home (or any place with a good internet connection).
This is what makes Barbados’ offer so intriguing. They have a beautiful location and offer you to come to live there, work with your laptop using the internet and enjoy the surroundings.
I hear you say: “How the heck is Barbados going to guarantee good internet so anybody in the world could come to visit and work there?”
The answer resides in Starlink.
Barbados is maybe the first location to offer this but I believe others will follow very soon.
SpaceX is developing Starlink as a satellite internet system that will give us high-speed internet access anywhere around the globe. In some places, this technology will be available in 6 months from now. In 12 months, we’ll have access to Starlink in latitudes as far south as Dallas, and in 3 years, this satellite system will be available all around the globe.
Think about this for a moment: great internet connectivity will soon no longer be bound to where you are. You’ll be able to live at low-cost in beautifully remote places and continue to work with your laptop as if you were located in one of the major cities. I can see RV living and off-grid living take on a whole new meaning.
This is why you need to worry about your talent. If you don’t clearly understand what you need to develop it or have any doubts you have in-demand skills, get busy while you’re waiting for the economy to recover.
We will all compete with talented people around the world offering their services based on talent. We’ll be compensated in a common currency, maybe Bitcoin or IMF SDR. And, most excitingly, we’ll be able to use and provide our talents from any place in the world through a reliable and fast internet connection.
What should you be doing next?
My advice to you is this:
Become very aware of your talents. Understand where the gaps in your knowledge are and what parts of your skills you need to develop to become most desirable for those seeking people with your talents.
I hope this gets you thinking.
Here are a few more brain teasers for you to contemplate:
- Should you try to be an employee or a free service provider offering your talents to those who need them?
- Do you really need to live in locations that are close to the biggest tech companies, like Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, Tokyo, etc. or should you find a nice location with a reasonable cost of living and perfect placement to serve multiple time zones around the globe?
- Should you keep searching traditional job boards and submit applications to traditional job descriptions or rather develop your own brand and presence in the global marketplace?
- Do you need to wait till you reach a certain age and completed degrees before offering your talents or will you be better off determining what you love doing, get great at it, and offer it as soon as possible (who cares about age if you live your passion and determine how many hours a week you want to dedicate to it)?
- Did Gandhi, Mandela, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Michael Gorbachov, Elon Musk, Nicola Tesla, Michelangelo — any of them ever count the hours they spent on their work? They probably didn't even call it work: it’s just what they do.
- Can you afford to ever stop learning and improving your talents and gaining more knowledge?
Your location will soon be irrelevant. Make sure you have and develop your talents. If you have kids, make double-sure that they’re prepared for the new world where connection to the internet and the utilization of talent is going to be much more important than where you live, what political system you are a part of, and what you wear while working.
The few who are best prepared will benefit the most. I want you to be one of them but it’s up to you to make it happen.
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