Cracking into the future
I was trying to think yesterday about what I would do if I was just starting today. Like if I’d had just now come to the mindset I was in 2-3 years ago and wanted to crack into the industry(ies). Or, let’s say I got fired and had to start completely over.
Henry Copeland said we’re in a post-media world. Umair is calling it a post-consumer world. Maybe it’s a post-college one as well. At least in the sense that the educational system simply cannot keep up with what is happening. By the time the US military got around to adopting maneuver warfare in the late 90’s, the world had moved on to 4th Generation combat. Before you have time to understand something, it’s already obsolete. The implications of that are profound. A good example, I’m reading this book right now called Gonzo Marketing by the author of Cluetrain Manifesto which is brilliant and totally right but it was written in 2001. It doesn’t even mention Google, Youtube or blogs.
I’m just looking at it like–and I don’t mean to rationalize my decision onto other people–that we might be past the point where college means anything. In my opinion, your average teenager is significantly smarter than any generation previous, regardless of what any standardized testing might show. Where I am now, mainly self-taught, well-read, connected, and with access–how would that have been possible 20 years ago? Tucker’s reading list was an enormous contributing factor to that. In order for me to find that or something similar without the internet I would have had to a) know him personally b) be the child of a college professor. And even then how could I have possibly made sense of the material? I couldn’t even have bought most of the books.
So I think that leaves the dilemma as such: How can you prepare now for a world in which traditional education is obsolete? How can you capitalize or leverage a world in which people are instantaneously connected and you have access to literally all the world’s knowledge?
[*]If I wanted to break into finances or money management, I would become the best financial adviser to bloggers/web guys. Mike Davidson just told his company to MSNBC for $10 million dollars, and he’s clearly looking for something to do with that money. I’d be tracking down personalized tips for each of these guys and giving them to them for free. And then I’d make this offer: “I know I’m young, but what if you let me manage $5,000 of your money? I double in the next 12 months. And I’m playing with my money too–so this isn’t a joke.” What resources does a major brokerage have that you don’t at this point? Insider information, maybe. People want to make money but they also want to work with people they like, who understand their goals and show they have potential. And I would write about the entire process as it happened.
Or of course, you could be an intern for 2 years and pray someone throws you a few nuggets of wisdom along with the abuse as this whole thing passes you buy. All you need is one guy to create enough trust to let you break your back for one person and if you deliver, that whole world is open to you. When Kevin Rose sells digg, don’t you think he’ll ask Mike where he put his money?
[*]I’d become a personal RSS reader for one or two of the big bloggers. “You’ll like this article.” “Do you read this blog? He hits a lot of the same themes that you do.” “I’m hearing rumors that ____ is going to acquire ______, just wanted to give you a heads up.” And I would tailor the results for that person based on what I know they like. I would kill myself doing it. Every day, 5-10 articles. And then I would start to integrate commentary or questions. Become the guy that they get their information from, the person that keeps them connected to the pulse. Maybe one week I’d take a break and send nothing, just to highlight the difference. The ultimate end game being that they would start to send you out to find things for them: “What can you tell me about ________” Yes, you’re a research bitch but in the end, you come away with something that even the person you’re serving doesn’t–not just a vast reserve of knowledge but the ability to find out where it is coming from
[*]I’d copy Muhammad Saleem and become one of the top contributors on one of the social media sites like Digg or Del.icio.us. But I’d twist it a little. I’d identify sites that were tracking well and poised to really pick up and then I’d email them and say “Hey, I know it’s awkward to submit your own stuff on Digg but I have a pretty good reputation on the site, if you’d like to start submitting your stuff to me I will post the links I like.” Become the easy connection between social networking and the content creators with your own editorial voice. And then you might find that they start writing for you–which is real power.
There are a ton more ways to do it but my point is this: All the things you’re supposedly going to school for (unless you’re going to be a doctor) you could be doing right now. No one knows who you are on the internet. All the BLINK biases and constraints are gone. So why aren’t you?