Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Contemplating an Artisan Economy

Contemplating an Artisan Economy
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For those who’ve been around me lately, I fear I’ve become a bit of a bore: Yet another “Glum Gus” trying to run the math around the way we interface with our planet—and perpetually finding results somewhere between daunting and terrifying. I won’t talk specifically about this today, but I will in posts to come. For now, I want to consider a strange paradox I find myself facing. I suspect I’m one of many asking the same series of questions, which seem to have so few clear answers.

I’ve been at odds

I love making things. In fact, it might be one of the experiences I enjoy more than any other: the fervent energy that comes from really getting into a project and doing this “thing” is quite infectious. Some of our projects are for paying customers, while others are “labors of love,” financed by our firm, largely for the fun of doing it. How we’re compensated isn’t all that consequential—although it probably should be—the making is reward in itself. If we had unlimited wealth, I suspect we’d still likely do something like what we do right now.

In order to do my job well, I have to help others sell more stuff. Sure, this is a bit of an overly general statement, but it’s largely the case. If smashLAB does what it promises, our customer should then, “move more product.” As much as I can abstract this, and construct reasoning aimed at countering any guilt I may feel, the truth of the matter is that I’m deeply tied to a system of creation and consumption. Worse yet, this is a system that likely cannot be maintained should we wish to preserve the existence of our species on this planet (at least in the form and numbers we see now).

Sure, we could assist more groups committed to sustainability—which is something we’re actively working to do. That being said, I can’t help but see this as a more grey situation than that. In all but the most extreme of cases, it’s not as though there are “good” organizations and “bad” ones. Life is rarely that Disney-esque. In our world, the real “bad guys” are just us, unwilling to challenge those things we see and know to be flawed, but just seem like fish too big to fry. For the sake of this post, I’d like to (in a very limited way) explore the possibilities of commerce at a more human scale.

Making it better

I like to consider myself a “recovering capitalist” (and prospective human). Although capitalism was certainly the position I began from, I continue to be presented with indications that it is simply an insufficient model for humanity to base its actions upon. I’m certainly no great political thinker, but I hardly think one needs to be, in order to see why this framework is so problematic: a system in which the needs of the individual so greatly outweigh those of the populace tramples all else in its way. We’re so deeply ensconced in a “me” culture, that we don’t just think our myopic greed is acceptable; we believe it to be a right.

The greatest obstacle I see in this is a game-like sensibility in which owning more is the sole measure of success, be it from the perspective of the individual, corporation, or nation. This zero-sum perspective, however, is fundamentally flawed as it fails to recognize our interconnectedness as part of the equation. As seductive as the notion of “winning” may be, it stands for very little if the world we’re left with is left poisoned, barren, and uninhabitable. All the shiny toys, palatial homes, and ballooning bank balances, won’t “trade us up” to a new planet.

I’ll always lean towards discussions of sustainability when considering such topics, due to the persistent thinking that we’re entering (or are in the throes of) an endgame should we not take drastic measure. This however says little of the other grave challenges of this sort of thinking poses. For us to so blithely think that the Western World’s global actions are not linked to the threats of terrorism are evidence this. Mark my words: our mad desire to own more than our share will come back to haunt us (if it hasn’t already). We seem to see globalization as a method of accessing the resources of the rest of the planet for our own gain, instead of the opportunity to balance the deck and distribute the wealth as we all inherently know we must.

For my deep misgivings about capitalism and its many trappings, I still believe in entrepreneurialism. It’s not the creation of things, nor the desire for freedoms through one’s own actions that I find problematic; it’s when the blind pursuit of power supersedes human rights, healthy ecology, and basic notions like happiness and balance.

The race to the bottom


I’ll now step off my soapbox for a moment and pose a few questions. The biggest of which relates to whether we might be wise to start considering a different contest. It seems to me that beyond the wanton indulgence of our current game, we’ve unintentionally locked ourselves into a particular idea of how to generate wealth. In this we’ve chosen to cast aside most creative thinking surrounding revenue models, replacing them with the “more for less” conception.

Yes, this model is a particularly compelling one to most. Who doesn’t want to get “more” for their dollar? Why not go to Costco and buy a 4 gallon vat of mustard even if there’s no way for most to consume it? Who wouldn’t want a toaster for $8, even if it will break within months—heck, at that rate why not just buy a new one? The problem with this thinking is that it leaves us buying bigger homes to somehow warehouse these items (so ill-matched to our actual lives) while wasting our time trying to find ways of disposing of all this half-assed junk that wasn’t built to stand the test of time.

For the consumer this has the added inconvenience of requiring the recurring purchase of things they’ve already purchased. For companies this is equally problematic, as a great many are stuck in an unfortunate loop. Once another company drops the price, they must follow, and ostensibly product quality can rarely be far behind. This brings with it more support costs from dealing with angry customers, as well as advertising to try to get reach new (yet untainted) ones. Or, they may be forced to find some other way to reduce costs: perhaps by using environmentally destructive materials, or by contracting production out to groups with questionable (or even criminal) treatment of workers. There are many ways to cut costs, but perhaps we should be asking ourselves: at what cost?

Do we want to own crap, or make crap, or be in an endless race to squeeze every drop of profit out of everything we make? Yes, riches can be found in making great volumes of product with a very narrow profit margin. Can there not be equally fruitful ways of conducting ourselves without such a cost to our neighbors and the planet we call home? Is it not possible for us to take the overall cost of our actions into consideration? Is it possibly time for us to weight our decisions in a more cohesive and holistic fashion, which acknowledges that even the costs that don’t end up on a balance sheet still carry relevance?

Another model

I like to consider myself a pragmatist. Capitalism is here to stay (at least for as long as we’re here to stay) because it plays into our own selfish and short-sighted nature. Whether I believe this to be admirable, or a suitable measure of our otherwise innovative species, hardly matters. It simply is. With that in mind, I ask if we need to look at this as a practical problem for businesses.

For my continued criticisms of Apple, they serve as a brilliant example of how the game can be changed. While most other computer companies concentrate on lowering the price point and offering an increasing number of features, they have effectively rewritten the game, with few able to even follow suit. By instead concentrating on making their products more desirable, they’ve become a ubiquitous brand with over $25 billion in cash reserves.

So if we care not about the planet, its citizens, or future generations, at very least, we can probably all agree on more wealth; can we not? My argument, then, is that the race to the bottom is an exercise in futility; because, if you’re only competing on price, you’ll quickly find yourself outpaced. No matter how low you can get the price, consumers will tire of your product and competitors will find ways to lower the price even further. Again, I ask: is this a game worth playing?

I question whether we might be able to rethink our ideas surrounding stuff. Could we work within the confines of capitalism to craft more suitable (and healthy) solutions? Is it possible for us to make things that afford better long-term value to the buyer, are less harmful to the planet, and afford their creators greater profit and balance as a result?

We all want to feel special

You don’t want to buy a piece of moving metal that causes environmental destruction, breaks all the time, and continually drains your bank account. Nor, do you want to build a massive residence that takes every penny and moment you have to keep clean, organized, and maintained. I also posit that given the option of getting the cash back for the fancy wristwatch you bought on a whim, you’d leap at the opportunity.

In spite of our voracious appetite for material goods, we’re actually quite bad at the whole “consumption” deal. The reason for this is simple: we’ve been taught to imbue our purchases with greater weight than they truly deserve. A shiny car will not help you attract a mate any more than a big house will make your family happy. The expectations we have for our acquisitions are incongruous with actuality. Sadly, people just like me are very good at continuing to bombard those around us with such lies. Perhaps Bill is right; maybe everyone in marketing should kill themselves.

Let us allow pragmatism to once again prevail and consider this problem from a less fatalistic standpoint and ask how it might be leveraged to affect a more positive outcome.

In a radio interview with Debbie Millman, Virginia Postrel talked about how as the general dependability of experiences has increased, our expectations have shifted. It’s been a while since I last listened to the interview, but I remember her talking about Holiday Inn’s one-time slogan, “the best surprise is no surprise.” While the promise of consistency once sufficed as a marketing position, she argued that this is now just a baseline and that we increasingly look for more “designed” (read: special) experiences. Forgive my poor paraphrasing of this discussion, and please listen to the podcast for a better explanation of this notion.

The point I like here is that as products and services become more common, they tend to feel less precious. There’s opportunity to be found in this absence.

The emergence of an artisan economy

I think we’d all be better served by paying more. I’ve experienced this first hand, and I bet you have too. Think of something you purchased deliberately—let’s say a really great knife for your kitchen. Instead of running to WalMart and buying one at a “bargain price,” you took the time to research knives, and went to a specialty cooking store to see how they felt in your hands. You paid much more—perhaps even 100 times what you would have for the one at WalMart. For that price difference, you have an “heirloom object.” It’s solid in your hand, cuts beautifully, and makes you feel like a better cook. And because you paid more for it, you take better care of it. Instead of a half-dozen pieces of junk taking up space in the drawer, you have one beautiful tool that you’re unlikely to feel the need to replace.

As a consumer, there are many reasons for paying a higher price: Doing so tends to make us appreciate these purchases more, as we contemplate such decisions more carefully. Paying a premium allows us to demand better quality and support. Meanwhile, at this price-point, we can ask companies to behave ethically, both in terms of workers’ rights as well as in how these companies’ actions relate to the environment.

I’m of the mind that for companies, there are an equal number of benefits to higher price-points. First of all, it takes them out of the race that most of their competitors are running, allowing them to re-engage at a different altitude. Once “lowest price” is dethroned (as the primary driver) all kinds of other opportunities open up. At a higher price point, an organization is free to service fewer clients, better. They are able to create products using better raw materials, therefore attracting the attention of those who respect such attention to craft and quality. Similarly, they can leverage a greater number of differentiators like style, artistry, and storytelling.

Even more importantly, they can utilize that one magical thing that most industry misses entirely: scarcity. While many companies race to create more at a lower price, they do so by cannibalizing their future brand value and profits. We all know this: once everyone has it (whatever “it” is) it fails to be special. So, if everyone had a Ferrari, no one would think they were special—or desire one so. When everyone knows your favorite band, they become less “yours.” And if that little restaurant down the street “goes national,” you may seek out something less “cookie-cutter.” (If you’re interested in more on this topic, I’d also recommend reading: Authenticity and The Zellers Paradox.)

This is also why Apple pretends they can’t keep iPhones on the shelves. Limited supply infers value—and consequently builds demand.

We’re living this stuff

We’ve wrestled with size a great many times here at smashLAB. At times we’ve braced for growth, while at others we’ve tried to get down to just the two founders. Those who know us often ask (in jest), “Are you guys big or small today?” The roots of this wavering are two-fold. We’d like to be larger in order to provide more depth (and take a few holidays); we want to stay small, as we feel obligated to afford the very best work we can to our clients.

Part of this is a bit of a curse. A more business-minded person than I would start a contract asking which corners might be cut (without anyone being any worse for it). For better or for worse, we tend to get uncomfortable around such thinking—as though we’d be shortchanging someone without investing suitable toil; similarly, we reach the end of many projects wanting to add “one more thing,” in order to make a project just a little better. This predilection is not an intelligent one, and it negatively affects the lifestyle I lead—and the pace at which our company becomes more profitable.

On the other hand, I see how this will benefit us in the long run. I’ve watched many design firms come and go, making great promises and subsequently under-delivering, only to grow tired of the whole rigmarole. There’s no shortage of “get rich quick” schemes and seemingly inventive folks who believe they can apply an assembly-line approach to this kind of work. Most leave as quickly as they came, learning that craft and commerce are awkward, yet necessary, bedfellows for any design firm worth its salt.

For some time, I apologized for the limited number of bodies within our walls, but in light of the low-grade of work produced by many agencies that dwarf us many times, I am less inclined to do so any longer. (This sentiment is echoed by a great many of our clients, who’ve come to experience the same disconnect between size and quality, first-hand.) As a result, I’ve come to see our agency as something akin to a fine cabinet-maker. We don’t need to make all the world’s cabinets, we just have to make very good ones. By making this determination, we are liberated from chasing all the work, and instead allowed to invest heavily in the select few clients who really value what we do.

Although there are many arguments for large companies and their collective power, I continue to believe that there are substantial gains to be found in thinking small. Running a big machine with low yield leaves one vulnerable in the incident of obstacle or failure. Concentrating on a more human-scaled one affords a number of freedoms: most markedly that of choice. Unwilling to take my word for this? Read Blair’s Win Without Pitching for more thinking that follows this train of thought.

Examples

I’d like to provide some examples, pointing out how a few groups have crafted enviable positions for themselves. There’s Crescent Spur (a client of ours) that keeps improving service, but refuses to grow, even though many ask them to. The reason they don’t? They worry that doing so would separate them from their customers. Or, as one of the founders said it, “If we do that, I won’t be able to check the menu every day.” It’s true, as companies grow, their scale makes it hard to remain personal.

Then there’s Rayco Resophonics in Smithers, BC. Their resophonic and Hawaiian acoustic guitars start at $3,200 USD, and have a minimum 6 to 8 month wait. From what I hear, some rather well known guitarists are forced to (figuratively) stand in line, just like anyone else. By contrast, you can walk into any guitar shop around the world and get a Fender in any model, finish, or configuration you’d like; there’s little special about such a purchase. Rayco will never prove a “threat” to Fender, but that doesn’t matter. The people at Rayco are playing their own game. (For the record, I have no affiliation with anyone at Rayco.)

Another interesting example as of late is the DODOcase. This group (based in San Francisco) came out early with a Moleskine styled case for the iPad. There are imitators, and meanwhile, there are many other similar—and more readily available—products. Nevertheless, the wait list for a DODOcase was (until recently) up to 6 weeks. A great many (myself included) are willing to wait that long, just to get a product that is built well, and seems to be crafted with care, instead of something mass-produced in a factory somewhere.

A vision

I like the idea of an increasing number of people making better things. I also am particularly fond of people choosing their own destiny, and living in a world without bosses. Perhaps such a time is further off than I would like to admit, but I can’t help but feel that these things are all connected, and that not seeing that does have some bearing on our current messy state of affairs.

My vision is of a more evolved and human-scaled approach to business. In this we see the rise of craft and cottage based industries. We also start to find that those with real values and stories have something to afford and subsequently gain steam because they stand for something. Similarly, we learn that size is in fact something worth carefully contemplating, and that it can be self-regulating. We need not all chase growth at any price, and by abstaining from this destructive cycle, all parties can benefit.

My book: Speak Human, addresses many of these topics, and I would love for you to give it a read. The other I’m growing quite fond of is Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful. I’m only part way through it, but am rather taken by his perspective (even though the book is as old as I am).

While I in no way believe that an artisan economy can serve to substantially remedy the ailments we face as a species, I do wonder if it might be a worthwhile exercise. Perhaps exploring such a possibility would allow us to better understand whether we might be liberated from the numbing drudgery imposed by our current “lowest-price” model.

As customers, we can “vote with our dollars” and I encourage you to remember this. In doing so we can force some of the big guys to “clean up their act,” while better distributing the wealth to companies with more mature and responsible measures of success than just “more.”

Follow @karj to hear about these posts first.

Comments & Trackbacks

  1. Kara says:

    While this hardly summarizes the whole of what you're trying to articulate here, I just finished reading "Architecture of Happiness" by Alain de Botton and this quote holds a lot of prospect for me: http://www.flickr.com/photos/olivelife/4918022802/

    For me, it's can also be about noting the way the earth works in "seasons" - sometimes it's time to harvest and sometimes the land needs a break.

    Those are a few of my poetic thoughts on this artisan discussion;)

  2. That's a nice quote Kara--thanks for sharing it!

  3. Travis Fleck says:

    Well said yet again. It seems that the only realistic solution must will come from the consumer's change in thinking and spending. It feels like we as a society are generally moving in the direction but I may be living a sheltered existence here in the Pacific NW.

    Is it safe to say, welcome back to the blog?

  4. I agree Travis--we need to start recognizing that every time we pull out our credit card, we're making a vote one way or another. We have an awful lot of power as consumers; the question is how we wish to use it.

    Thanks for the welcome note. I do intend to blog more regularly again, however, the new posts will mostly be concentrated on this sort of subject matter. My feeling is that there are plenty of well written design blogs out there. In order for this to be relevant, it has to move in a bit of a new direction.

    I'm particularly excited about this, as it affords me an opportunity to look at issues that I find personally important. The intersection of design, sustainability, and the common good is particularly relevant in my mind.

    Now the trick is to determine whether I can articulate these points in a way that doesn't just bore readers to tears. ;-)

  5. Mark says:

    Eric,

    If we weren't on opposite coasts in different countries, where we're now required to have a passport just to cross the border for lunch, I'd be pestering you to join me for lunch. Please continue sharing this line of thinking as it develops.

    You bring to mind the phrase, "I can't afford to buy cheap." I first encountered this in the context of some story of someone's mother or something who had been through the Great Depression and was contemplating the purchase of something mundane, like a vacuum cleaner or iron. "I can't afford to buy cheap" says to me, I/we can't afford to kick off a cycle of cheap, low-quality inefficient purchases; I'm investing in something sustainable here.

    Your focus is on consumerism and our throwaway culture. Everything we do & buy sates an immediate need and is considered disposable. For me, this is just part of a broader problem, that I've been trying to recover from in some ways recently: A constantly reactive, commodity-based culture in our lives and work.

    Everything is react-react-react, quick fix, pseudo-urgency solutions. It's manifested in dramatically shifting expectations of one another, whether it be that scramble to the bottom or how frequently we respond to email. It's becoming the driving force in commerce and life and politics and too often a lack of such compliance puts one at a competitive disadvantage. It makes me ill.

    I think shifting to an artisan mindset would benefit us in many, many ways. It's about more than investing heavily in the select clients you can kick ass for, and in those relationships, it's about recovering a sustainable way of life. The fine cabinet-maker must relish working slowly. He must find time to get into a zone with his work without constantly being pinged for updates. His skills at producing cabinets aren't in pushing buttons, whether on a cabinet-making machine or an Inbox screen, but in working with raw materials and tools and ideas. When necessary, he can use those skills to fix things in or on his home. He will appreciate craftsmanship and purchase things that will last and that he can repair over time.

    Similarly, in our fields, the reactive coder or designer can merely apply patches. He can't solve a comprehensive problem or put in place a system that will withstand future challenges. And as a result, our compensation models increasingly shift to paying for support, whether it be frequent repairs on our vehicles, buying a new toaster every six months, or just putting the vendor on retainer to patch issues as they arise; no one can envision a sustainable solution.

    In many ways then, it's about investing in oneself. It's about divorcing ourselves of the reaction-based culture not just when we make that impulse purchase we'll regret later, but when we're inclined to keep checking the Inbox, not only at our desks but wherever we are with an iPhone in hand. It's about developing and taking those cultivated skills and exchanging real value: Something of quality for commensurate compensation, to ensure that we're able to continue investing in quality, whether our own skills or those that we compensate others for.

    But in all aspects, it is, to me, about slowing down.

  6. Mark--if you ever find yourself on this coast, and side of the border, I'd encourage you to drop by. This is a conversation that would pair nicely with a beer. :-)

    The levels of stress and imbalance we all seem to feel should indicate that something isn't quite "right." I often wonder how many things I could take out of the equation and still survive--do I really need to own books, or could I just borrow more of them. Do I really need my suits, when I don't really find them all that comfortable? Could we live in our small townhouse until we're "old and gray" or, must we upgrade into a big house with a lawn that perpetually needs to be mowed?

    I think a great many of us are asking the same questions. I also believe this is a very good dialogue to take part in!

  7. Mark says:

    "The levels of stress and imbalance we all seem to feel should indicate that something isn't quite "right." I often wonder how many things I could take out of the equation and still survive--do I really need to own books, or could I just borrow more of them. Do I really need my suits, when I don't really find them all that comfortable? Could we live in our small townhouse until we're "old and gray" or, must we upgrade into a big house with a lawn that perpetually needs to be mowed?"

    And in fact, we've been on such a spree. Much of it is steeped in sharing a 2 bedroom condo with two young children, and needing to reclaim some breathing room, but unused items, discarded toys, unworn clothes, bulky furniture, excess TVs...Even the second car (once a necessity for commuting) is on the verge of being sold as we have access to mass transit and my office is a 15-minute walk downtown.

    We're drowning in those reactive choices, whether they be purchases, or a series of snowballing steps in a job that resulted in a solution that needs ongoing support. And we've been trying to pare down and strip away to get back to something that's not just sustainable, but is manageable and human.

    But again, I don't think it's just tangible things. I see a real turning point three years ago when I got my first iPhone. Blackberries had been around before then, sure, but I didn't have one. Just three years ago, I didn't know I had an email until I sat down at a computer. And in three short years, I'm tired of it, and frustrated with that compulsion to always be connected and on top of the latest updates. In many, many ways, we need to adapt to getting by--thriving--with less.

  8. Mark says:

    "...with a lawn that perpetually needs to be mowed?"

    I must also say that mowing that lawn, or sitting on the porch surveying that lawn, are great opportunities to slow down and get some introspective time in.

  9. Indeed--it feels a little like preparing for Christmas. Everyone's racing to get there, but few seem to know what "there" is.

    And as for "mowing the lawn," I suggest planting a garden--more fruitful, interesting, and better for the planet. :-)

  10. Kevin Fitzgerald says:

    Your timing is spooky. I just recently have had discussions concerning these same topics with a few friends and designers around town. Indeed, as I'm looking to reinforce my focus as a designer, this line of thought is immensely powerful.

    The Artisan Economy. I like it. Sure, it's a compromise -- I haven't yet figured out a way to 'make things' without adding to capitalism's momentum in some degree -- but it's a strong idea to hold to. I definitely aim to become valued as a 'cabinet-maker' of the finest order.

    Thanks for the reinforcing thoughts.

  11. I have that feeling awfully often Kevin--I think it has something to do with us all processing a lot of the same experiences and reading similar materials. I feel it's, therefore, inevitable that we trip upon shared areas of thought. In a way, I get the feeling we're getting "networked" due to our shared input points.

    Glad you found the post worth reading! I struggled a little with posting this one--it's long, and I worry that some will "pass" on it as a result. Nevertheless, it's a topic that I feel is very important; it makes me happy to see that some are willing to sit back and dig through this subject matter!

  12. Travis Fleck says:

    To add a few links of businesses going this route...

    Raleigh Denim
    http://vimeo.com/13517107

    Best Made Company
    http://www.bestmadeco.com/

    Nau
    http://www.nau.com/

    Freeman Transport
    http://www.freemantransport.com/

    Lítill
    http://www.litill.com/

  13. Thanks for these Travis!

  14. Shawn Petriw says:

    Eric - during my "Bobby McGee Tour 2010" I've met lots of people working in remote places along the central coast that basically called bullshit on the system and are much happier for it.

    As for me, everything I own now, except the car, fits in the panniers on the bike and 3 banker boxes. I feel MUCH richer for it.

    And interestingly, I intend to do as you suggest - pay more. I'm not going to buy "more" stuff; but over time replace what little I have with the highest quality version I can get, consistent with an adventurous lifestyle. Wal-Mart poly t-shirts will be replaced with high-end merino wool, for example.

    And I'll see your proposition and raise you - I'm going to do the same thing with "friends," too. Robin Dunbar is onto something.

  15. I've been watching your posts from the trip as they pop up in my newsfeed Shawn--looks like you're having a great time, and I'm left a little envious!

    I'll look into Robin Dunbar's number more. I've bookmarked it for reading on my next bus ride.

  16. Cenk Guven says:

    Eric, thank you for being around and sharing your ideas with us. You have no idea how good it feels to know that someone, especially in your position - that is a North American living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and working in an industry like yours - still keep questioning. Unfortunately the world has forgotten the social sciences and everything has become economy oriented. (David Suzuki was a few months earlier righteously criticizing the triple bottom line -society, economy, environment- and advising how the biggest circle should be environment and include the others). The economy professors at the A-class universities have forgotten what the ultimate goal was and got stuck in some academic formulas. The PhD students studying economy are there to spread the theories and formulas to world without questioning these theories or formulas, where are today, how we got here and where we are going. We forgot the biggest science of all - philosophy!

    Then there are a few people like you around (at least that I know of) come and shake up things a little bit. Please keep doing it. Otherwise, what life is worth? Eat, eat, eat, and die?!

  17. Thanks for your comments and thoughts Cenk! I do appreciate you taking the time to share them with us!

    I often struggle with the exact same notion you're highlighting: we can talk about all kinds of things, but if we mess up our home (the planet), all the rest is for naught.

    Hopefully we all can engage in more of this dialogue, and apply it to how we vote, purchase, and engage with others. My belief is that if we work together to re-imagine these things, we can impact the kind of change we need.

  18. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to put together such an insightful and honest post. I seriously got chills down my spine while I read, cherishing each and every word. You have taken many of the thoughts and feelings I've been having and put them together in a way that clarified a lot for me.

    I look forward to reading more!

  19. Thanks Michelle! I didn't really expect many comments for this post. I appreciate all the positive feedback, and am grateful for your comment!

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  21. Jeff Sutton says:

    Fascinating reading here, very well thought out, unlike the following mess of junk that has just spewed out of my brain.
    Just this morning i was thinking what is the difference between someone like myself, a web designer and someone like my brother, who's a stock broker. I come up with the idea that one of us is actually making something and the other is just making money. In a digital age where online purchasing eliminates the need for a middle man, the whole concept of piggy backing on someone's idea just to make money seems like a complete waste of your average joe and janes hard earned cash. Maybe a stock broker is a bad example, perhaps a car sales man or yard? When i worked wholesaling the snowboards in ozzie the standard margin was at least 30%, so with a the middle man gone a $1000 board is actually only $600. Take into account the fact that the wholesale is buying that same snowboard from the supplier at $300, the poor old consumer is ending up with a $300 board for $1000!! Talk about a rip off! I appreciate there may need to be some margin in there for a service location - somewhere to take your board back if its faulty, but definitely not that much. You should be able to order the latest snowboard at close to the cost price that the wholesaler buys them from the factory? Its the massive amount of margin and piggy back money making that is forcing people to purchase a $500 RRP snowboard which is only made from $50 worth of materials, that's whats driving the bottom end of the market. This is one thing i hoping the internet is going to fix. You should be able to have your board shipped direct from the factory/local warehouse, without so many middle men eating up your cash? I guess getting back to the original point about me and my brother, i think some people like my bro are fueled by the idea that having lots of cash is going to bring happiness to there lives, because they think of all the things that they will be able to do once they have that money. He also enjoys the adrenaline of the stock market. Myself, I'm more motivated by the idea of creation and reward (financial or otherwise) at that's what keeps me happy in life. I'm a creator i guess, the money thing is a distant last in my life. So two brothers brought up roughly the same and yet both moving in complete different directions. I would say its genetics (which i know nothing about) or trait in the human race that separates our thinking and stops us progressing as one. There's a bit of mongrel in there, a bit of survival of the species kinda lord of the flies vibe - i've got it! -its the people that fail to see the consequences of there actions or straight out don't care about them. There's always going to be someone like that trying to make a quick buck, combine that with a middleman heavy supply chain and its a hard road back from there. I would like to see the government step in and regulator use of natural resources or production, like if you going to make a kettle then it has to last a minimum of 5 years, not 5 minutes. Or a car that has to be completely recyclable. We need leaders.

  22. Many of us struggle with the same thing you speak of Jeff--in ways, one might say that this is the crux of our current state: the "brokers" tend to be better rewarded than the "doers." Makes the recent economic boondoggle seem even more reprehensible, doesn't it?

  23. I have been thinking along the same lines for quite a while now. For a long time I have not wanted for anything, though I am responding on my new Iphone! - but I forsee this as a long term purchase.

    The same with my work tools; I have used the same PC now for 5 years; I find my PC is easily powerful enough for all new software.

    At 25 my need for product was replaced with a need for knowledge, maybe this shift in mindset is needed to change the 'me' culture.

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