If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility! ― Soren Kierkegaard Either/Or
We’ve talked about the psychology of why we work and the satisfaction there is when work gives you opportunities of mastery, autonomy and purpose. We’ve also talked about how our society has set up an arena of freedom and permission in order to foster good work. At Able we strongly believe in these two things and it is why we are lending money to small businesses.
But work in the modern age has fundamentally changed. Gone are the days of one job, 30 years, and a gold watch. Soon the days of cubicle-drone may be over too.1 It is the internet’s fault. And the internet is awesome.
In September of 2014 a report commissioned by research firm Edelman Berland concluded that 53 million Americans are now freelancing.
53 million people. And these are just solo enterprises.
Thirty-four percent of the workforce in our society are their own solopreneurs, contributing their work and talents to the marketplace. Little autonomous units pursuing their own work. The report concludes that the driver of this has, unsurprisingly, been the explosion in technology in the past 15 years. And this makes sense. This is not something that could have been possible 50 years ago. It was difficult for that many people to find clients. But that’s not the case anymore. Simply put: it is now easier for people to find each other and for markets to be formed between buyers and producers. The internet is has been, and continues to be, the biggest revolution in human history.
I know I may sound overly optimistic. But I caution you in dismissing that big claim. We humans have a weird cognitive ability to deemphasize the ubiquitous and central drivers of a situation (the signal) and overemphasize small (and ultimately unimportant) factors (the noise.) We are penny-wise and pound-foolish.2 But the fact of the matter is never before in human history has the potential for personal autonomy been this accessible. We can monetize our hobbies. If we have enough interesting things to say and a blog to say it, people will pay advertising dollars to have access to our audience. We can quickly have access to a global market from our kitchen table (for a story on this check out Branch Basics, a member of the Able family). All of us have stories of people we know who are doing this, in varying degrees of success.
And the stats are already bearing this out. Explosions in freelance numbers. Deeply entrenched industries totally being rocked to their core (Zillow in real estate. Uber and Lyft in transportation. AirBnB in hospitality.) The rise of boutique-everything. These individual companies may succeed or fail, but the big picture is assured: the passionate sense of the potential is alive and well.
At Able we try to make loans for people who understand the age of potential they live in, and people who have the will to turn that potential into business. We see potential in this age of potential.
- Imagine what our kids will think when they watch “Office Space” from their Space-X moon pods on Netflix. Probably the same emotions we have when we see this. ↩
- This is a trait that all successful investors have overcome. Warren Buffet did not become a billionaire by figuring out how to better catalogue tiny details, but by always looking to the big picture and opportunities when that picture shifted. ↩