Sunday, February 28, 2016

Finding Purpose, Meaning and Motivation in Production

Did you just come from another useless and time-wasting meeting?

Are you working on a document, email or report that you know is not going to make one bit of difference to anyone? Are you packing, scooping, welding, or assembling widgets over and over, everyday, while the mind numbing hours are ticking away one by one, robbing you of the single most important irreplaceable and valuable commodity of your life - your time?

You should be worried. This is not how life is supposed to be.

People are finding more and more that their work is not as inspiring or contributing as they thought it once was. For the sake of a pay cheque, they are busy being busy. Their work is without purpose, meaning, inspiration, and with no fulfilment. They do "bullshit jobs". These are people touched by the industrialization's disease of the last two centuries - cogs in machines. As people moved away from farming fields and workshops into factories and assembly lines, they lost their souls in the process. They lost meaning in work. They gave up being Producers. Instead, they became tools. Some, more educated than others, but tools nevertheless.

It doesn't have to be like this anymore. The good news is there is a solution. Now, robots can do the mind numbing work invented by the industrial age. There is most likely a machine that can do what labour does today. If there isn't one, it is bound to be invented soon by some maker somewhere.

If you are labour, this spells doom. Or, it will give you the opportunity to become a Producer again. Alternatively, you can be someone that supports Producers in creating our new world, or sign up for welfare. Stay with me as I explain.

There are soon going to be just two types of people in our world:

  • The people who make things. We can call them the Producers. These people are personally vested in the things they create; and 
  • Everyone else that benefits from what this first group does. We call them the supporters or consumers. Yes, the people on welfare are also in this group.
In this Blog post I hope to help you recognize who the Producers are in today's society. I make the case that we owe Producers a lot of support and our collective gratitude. Regardless of Producers being some of the lowest earners in society, these makers are motivated, have purpose, and enjoy their work.

By getting to know what drives Producers, you can join them and escape being replaced by a machine, while finding purpose and meaning in what you do. Or, you can support Producers. Because, without them we won't have the world we live in today. If you don't produce, or support a Producer, you better not get in their way. We need Producers now, more than ever before. For the sake of our sanity and our future. It is what evolution made us to do and who we are destined to be.

Why Producers Care 

Producers care, and they care about others. When one expends a lot of energy and time on creating something that matters to you, then you are more likely to care about, and for it. The person is vested in his or her creation. This is exactly what Producers do. The things they make are important to them, and the people that derive value from what they produce, matters to them.

Producers have reasons to take care of their environment, people that support them, communities, and their own lives. If they don't, they have nothing to work with, and no one for whom they can produce. Producers know it is hard to create, that is why they care about the way they are doing it. In every interview we do with makers they confirm that what they make is an extension of themselves. A maker infuses a little part of their identity, passion and motivation into every creation. It is part of them. It is who they are. By taking care of their creations and the people that benefit from it, they take care of themselves.

The rest of the people should support them to do it, so that they can in return benefit from what Producers do.

People that make things without being vested in their creation, are merely tools. I know you won't like to hear this, but it is true. Hired labour is simply just in a job, the same way a robot or a tool is there for a measured and defined output. No less and no more. Businesses are filled with hired labour that will do just enough to justify their contribution relative to their paycheque and status. No amount of moral high-ground can convince anyone to go above and beyond for a company or job in which they are not personally vested, and from which they don't personally benefit. The result is that hired labour can easily be replaced by the next person, automated and/or robotized. There is always the next tool that will take the place of the current. If you are labour today, then step out of this role.

If you are not lucky enough to be a Producer, and working with people that are equally vested in an outcome to make something as Producer, and in collaboration with another Producers, then prepare to be replaced by a machine that can do it cheaper, better, and faster (and not all machines are made from metal).

Labour may benefit from a paycheque, but without meaning and purpose. Go ask the people that have lost their jobs over the last couple of decades to outsourcing and mechanization. Manufacturing jobs are disappearing, and the middle class is under threat (Why blue collar work is disappearing). The jobs must disappear for the sake of progress. Jobs/tools change in line with the need for production. What should not disappear is people's motivation to produce or make something they care about, and which is valuable to someone.

The time has come to let the jobs go to the robots. The rest of us now either make something - become a Producer, or support someone that does. If you do, you will have purpose, find motivation and become more fulfilled in what you do.

The Producers

Producers make the materials, tools and products we consume everyday.

Materials are things like steel, wool, wheat, flower, wood, coal, oil, and more. Ingredients go into making tools and/or value added products for consumption. Materials are the ingredients for for other products. Materials are things that are destroyed or transformed during the act of making something else.

Tools are used to produce materials or the end products we consume. Tools include machines, vehicles, hammers, stoves, computers, phones, processes, information, labour and more. A tool is not destroyed during the process of creation. It serves an important role to transform materials into useful products for consumption. With tools and materials Producers make the things we consume. The better the tools, the more productive the production. The better the materials, the better the quality of the product.

The products we consume, made out of materials with (or without tools) include our food, clothes, and shelter. Products are consumed. They are used up and destroyed in the process. There comes a time when they no longer exist for the purpose they were designed and either become materials for the next product, like an old recycled table's wood. Food is an example of a product that is destroyed when it is consumed.

The Producer's knowledge, skill, commitment and drive binds it all together. It is the Producer that knows how to source the right materials, apply the perfectly calibrated tool to craft an exquisite wine, bread, garment or build a majestic house, and how to deploy labour in a productive process to do it all.

It is also the maker that is driven enough by their conviction to take the risk in making a difference for themselves, and offer value to those around them. Producers are inherent risk takers. Without taking risks, they will never know what can be done. Boundaries will not be tested. Innovation will not take place. They are also achievers driven by a need for recognition.

Producers work for profit, because profit allows them to produce, innovate and create. Without profit there is no incentive or further means to evolve and innovate. True Producers is after profit not for consumption sake. Yes, the nice car, house or holiday is always welcome, but ultimately money is just a tool at the Producer's disposal to facilitate the next creation, and the next innovation.

The Supporters

The best support you can provide any Producer is to use and enjoy what they make. By consuming their products we provide returns and profit, and give the Producer incentives to make more.

The second way to support Producers is to provide services to help them in their production efforts. The bankers, consultants, accountants, teachers, managers, politicians, lawyers, medical professionals, retailers and public services all fall within this later group. All these people support the efforts of makers, or exists thanks to the efforts of Producers.

For example, financial services exists to help producers finance their creative production efforts, and provide the means for trading and payment. Granted, they don't do this only for Producers, but considering everyone else relies on the success of producers it makes Producers the initiators and prime movers for the service.

Managers, administrators and consultants exist to help Producers do more and do it more efficiently. With the service of managers and administrators a maker's production can be scaled.

Most, if not all of the service industries can only exist because of the value that originates from Producers, and in support of makers. We can have healthcare because Producers invented and produce medicines, and medical instruments. We have hospitals because Producers build them. We have retailers to distribute products. Lawyers to help keep it fair and teachers to educate future Producers.

Then we have our favourite beneficiary: Public services. If it was not for the production of Producers then there were no sustainable way to finance public services. The levy of taxes on Producers make it possible. The majority of earnings through the production, trade and consumption of materials, tools and products goes towards employment and taxes. The producer is taxed on profits, and their employees are taxed on employment. No Producer, no production. No production, no profit. No profit, no work. No work, no employment. No employment, no personal taxes. And, without taxes how will the Government be able to justify what they do?

One should never forget that the Government inherently produces nothing and public services can only be justified with the understanding that it is thanks to Producers' contribution that it is all financed. The day Government lose this very important perspective, or believe they can get around this Producer production dependency through financing their populist efforts through credit and borrowing, is the day our society gets on a slippery slope we are unlikely to recover from, easily.

Unfortunately, it looks like we are there already, hence our mission here at Two Cowboys and A Camera, to promote Producers and inspire people to make something.

What Motivates a Producer

There are a few simple motivators that inspire people in general. Coincidentally, these very same things are part of the values you will find with every maker. Producers discovered these, and it forms the foundation of their being. This is why they live with purpose, drive and fulfilment. You can too.
  • Seeing the Fruits of One's Efforts Makes it Worthwhile: Producers see the fruits of their labour when they make something. It has value for themselves, but also for their consumers. When the amount of benefit from making something no longer justifies the effort or amount of recognition, the Producer moves on and stops making. This happens when their creation is not in consumer demand, or when the fruits (profits) of their labour falls short, or is confiscated through taxes, levies and compliance cost. Then Producers have a disincentive to produce. Then, people stop making. There simply is no point to make something that will be stolen by someone that profess to have the best interest at heart for society at large (sounds familiar?). The less appreciated any person feels their work is, the more money they want to do it, or the less likely they are to do it at all. Under these circumstances Producers abandon production and everyone else is worse off for it. Then, Services has no one to support, the labourers have no jobs, products disappear and food gets scarce. 
  • The Harder a Project is, the Prouder We Feel: Producers are achievers. Making something is not easy, but it is this perseverance that allowed human evolution to advance to where it is today. Hard challenges drives the most committed of Producers, and the highest achievers among us. The heavy lifting of advancing our civilization is done by the most committed for the sake of seeing the fruits of their efforts. We call them the Producers, makers and creators.
  • Knowing Their Work Helps Others: Producers make things for their own benefit and enjoyment. They are equally motivated to see others appreciate and benefit from what they do. Society is about cooperation, and the best incentive for a Producer is to see others use their products, or use their tools to co-create and make things even better.
  • Positive Reinforcement: There is no better incentive for Producers than to see people support their endeavours. By consuming their products and encouraging them to produce more Producers achieve and excel. The profits a Producer derives from the things they make positively reinforce them to do even more, search for even better ways to do it, and ultimately make it better for everybody involved.
When the people that benefits from producers take things for granted, they jeopardize the producer's drive and motivation. Because makers create the world, we put their commitment in jeopardy. When there is no longer a real incentive for people to make things, we all lose. We lose the drivers in our society, but we also lose a very important human quality - the motivation and ability to create.

Summary

Producers have the answer to a two century long broken employment paradigm. Jobs and labour have always been tools of Producers with all the tensions and demotivating characteristics that came with removing people's purpose, motivation and inspiration from their work. Making people cogs in a factory machine was never going to work out well for anybody (Producers included).

These tools (labour and jobs) are now under more threat than ever from machines that can do things cheaper, faster and better. This is a good thing, even with the discomfort that comes with it. By people becoming Producers, we have a chance to work with these machines, instead of against them.

To advance our own society we need to recognize the value of automation, and machines and use it to produce what we consume. As individuals we have to commit to make something or risk losing our place in civilized society. The only alternative is welfare when your job is replaced by a more capable robot. Labour (people that used to have a job) can now produce with machines as Producers. Jobs are no longer a given. But, by removing the traditional concept of "a job" we set people free to find purpose, motivation and meaning in their lives, by empowering them to make something. Now everyone can be a Producer.

The alternative is to do something in support of Producers. Supporters do the best they can do if they consume the products and use the tools Producers make. Most importantly Supporters that recognize that they are dependent on the success of Producers, and value and appreciate these people to add value to their production efforts, are the Supporters that contribute to society. If you get in the way of Producers producing, you kill the goose that lay the golden eggs. Get out of Producer's way, or risk a collapse in civil society. When people no longer have a reason to produce, they lose an innate motivator for life. When Producers cease to produce, our world will end.

Rather, I dream of a world where wealth is not defined by money, a job, or possessions, but by a person's ability to productively add value and produce for a supportive community. This should be the new way of looking at work. It is a new opportunity.

Pick your side: Producer, or Supporter. Be the best you can be, but be sure to get out of the way of the people that builds our world.

Hendrik van Wyk
Producer

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: pure delish, Auckland - New Zealand

Christmas Cakes

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How do you take charge of your own destiny with two small children and no money? You make something!

This is the first producer we profile in New Zealand. It is also a huge success story showcasing just what is possible with determination, unwavering commitment, and a great team of people. Breakfast cereal in New Zealand, will never just be Weetbix and milk again. Now you can upgrade to something healthy and delicious, with the knowledge that you are supporting a maker, making a difference. Meet Karen Staples and pure delish.



For more than a decade pure delish has been creating quality products that are real, delicious and anything but ‘ordinary’.  Their brand is synonymous with mouth-watering excellence, and they have carved a solid reputation for innovative, category-challenging and award winning products.

They started out small with Karen, owner of pure delish, wanting to make some extra cash for her family at Christmas.  She decided to roll up her sleeves, follow her passion for baking and set out on a mission to make a Christmas Cake that had a bit more of a modern twist than that offered at the time. This modest beginning has led her to where they are today, an innovative and passionate company producing a wide range of products including, 7 different breakfast cereals, snack bars, cookies, slabs and last but not least the famous pure delish Christmas Cakes!

Impressions

A visit to pure delish is not a normal visit to a food factory. The first thing that strikes you when you arrive is Karen's energy and passion. It is contagious with smiles from her staff everywhere. The second is the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Purely delicious cookies! It is a busy place. You need to know where to stand and not be in the way.

We arrived on a hot mid-Summer's morning at their factory in Mt Wellington, Auckland. Pure delish just moved into a brand new warehouse and company offices. "We've outgrown our space again!" is how Karen greeted us. The demand for pure delish's products keeps increasing, and recently they've started shipping product for export to Australia.

There aren't enough space on the shelf for all the awards that Karen and her people have received over the last few years. Not only did they manage to break into the cereal market, but they've succeeded in creating a whole new category of product that focusses on supporting people on the more natural paleo diet. There is almost a religious following of the pure delish products. I've brought some of the paleo bars home, and never had one. My teenage son (who avoids healthy food at all cost) annexed it, and that was the last I've seen of it.

Pure delish makes everything by hand. At first, this sounds like a less than profitable idea. Especially in fast moving consumer goods. Mechanisation and automation create margin in this category which is notorious for razor-thin profits and huge volumes (i.e. a lot of work for little money). In Karen's case, she decided that she would rather this profit end up in the pockets of her people. It is a differentiator, but also a commitment to employ people that equally benefits financially with her in her business. They all share the satisfaction that comes with making something.

Factory work can be soul crushing boring and repetitive. Karen showed us how employees at pure delish move from role to role, acquiring new skills and helping her to innovate the products as they grow. The ingredients they use are sourced from all over the world. Every nut and every raisin are checked to assure it meets the quality standards of the products that leave this kitchen.

What do you do as a producer when you achieved your goals? You find new ones.

Karen is slowly shifting her focus away from day-to-day production management and business survival, in a very competitive market, towards mentoring and growing her people. Her son recently joined her in the business, and this gives her an opportunity to take stock, reprioritize, and spend more time developing her people. She is now mentoring others to make something.

They all eat lunch together every day.

With this much energy, I cannot wait to see what Karen and her team is determined to do next. Once a maker, always a maker. As she said it: "It is in your bones!" Enjoy!

Hendrik van Wyk
Producer.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Problem with Jobs

Should I work for myself or for someone else?

Shall I take a job with an employer, or start my own endeavour. This is a simple decision with profound consequences in every work abled person's life. Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with employment. It has everything to do with the principles by which you trade your time, skill and labor. It reflects your willingness to be employed in a job, or to take the risk and apply your resources for yourself, as self employed. Now, more than ever, people are empowered to exercise this choice. The means of production is shifting away from big capital corporations, and into the hands of everyday makers and producers.

The Concept of a Traditional Job

Jobs are born every day when private firms (driven by self employed entrepreneurs, or capital driven corporations) add workers to take care of business. No one gives you a job because you deserve one. No one gives you a job because you need one. Not because you are a good person, not because you are breathing, or are entitled. It is not a "human right". You get a job because someone needs some work done and is willing and able to pay you for it. You trade your time, skill and commitment for currency.

Employees typically cash a paycheque weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Entrepreneurs, and those that are self employed, don't cash a paycheques. Instead, they put up the capital for the enterprise, take responsibility for loans and other financing, pay the expenses (including payroll) and own the assets including revenue. They offer opportunities for people in need of jobs. They provide the means for your time, skills and commitment to create value.

If, over the course of months or years (or decades in the case of large-scale industrial projects such as oil drilling or computer chip manufacture), there is more revenue than expense, the employer enjoys profits, which enable them to live well and invest in another round of entrepreneurship or opportunity job creation.

Some of this profit is shared with shareholders (which can include employees). If there is less revenue than expenses, and if the losing trend is not reversed, the enterprise eventually fails, and the entrepreneur goes bankrupt and has to go begging the banks or other financiers for capital to try again, or becomes the employee of some other more successful entrepreneur. Jobs come from successful entrepreneurs and investors willing and able to risk a buck on you in order to have the potential to eventually make two bucks for themselves and for the next round of investment, which in turn has the potential to create a new job or raise for you, or enable you to become an entrepreneur yourself.

In order for all this to happen, there has to be freedom of contract (people must be able to choose the job, and employers must be able to choose employees), respect and protection of private property rights, light and reasonable taxes and regulations, and political stability with the expectation that those conditions will continue. If this contract is in some way off balance, it leads to: meaningless employment, faltering and unproductive businesses, labour unrest, capital withholding, and ultimate collapse in an economy. Simple, or is it?

History of Jobs

When early humans "went to work," they were initially hunter-gatherers. Their time was spent chasing game and finding animals and other objects they could transform into food, tools, and weapons. Over time for a variety of reasons, including changing climactic patterns and increased populations, people began to settle down. Tools were developed for planting and land cultivation, and societal structures formed that helped people to get along in larger settlements.

This is a good place for us to discuss the difference between "work" and "jobs." Many of us go to work, and that work is often a job. While humanity always worked (digging, planting, hunting, foraging, building), the concept of trading currency for time and labor, is something relatively new in our development.

Work is labor. A job is trading currency for time and labor.

Trading for labor is an ancient practice. Colonial America was a place of tradesmen and guilds. With the exception of a very few world-spanning enterprises like the East India Company, or Hudson Bay Company in Canada, there were few large employers. Most people either worked for themselves - self employed - or for local tradesmen and merchants. Alternatively, they were in the employment of the state (or military).

Before the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century and 19th century most people worked as farmers. Only a small minority of people worked in industry. Back in colonial times and earlier, skills were passed down through apprenticeship. Guilds were created to control trade, share skills, and create barriers of entry to outsiders.

During the 19th century the factory system gradually replaced the system of people working in their own homes or in small workshops. In England the textile industry was the first to be transformed. The changes caused a great deal of suffering to poor people because the means of production was removed from the tradesperson and his tools, to that of the factory owner with the capital for machines. It largely destroyed the trades. The tasks within these corporations could be divided between the line worker (with a specific and specialized task) and management/administration. The one coopted with the tools of the trade to produce a product of value, while the other administered the means and the process.

Meanwhile in the late 20th century a change was coming over the economy, sometimes called de-industrialization. Traditional industries such as coal mining, textiles and shipbuilding declined rapidly. Service industries such as tourism, education, retail and finance grew rapidly and this sector became the main source of employment. The capital and labour for manufacturing moved to lower cost locations such as China and India, and the functions that remained were service or administrative in nature. People stopped making things. The majority of manufacturing jobs disappeared in favour of service jobs.

We are again on the cusp of another opportunity to more fully tap into our creative potential, driven by significant technological innovation that is democratizing the means of production and enabling connections between resources and markets. The arrival of the Maker Movement will emerge as the dominant source of livelihood as individuals find ways to build small businesses around their creative activity and large companies increasingly automate their operations.

Against Jobs

The biggest driver for self employment is to control your own destiny. Working a job gives someone else control over the majority of your life. Being self employed places the responsibility for your welfare into your own hands. Some people relish the opportunity, especially if they've already been a casualty of a meaningless job or a layoff.

Working a job is dangerously comfortable. When you work for someone else, life is just comfortable enough to keep you from asking the really important questions. Most jobs eliminate incentives to stand out or challenge convention. Pushing a new or alternative idea is considering threatening behaviour, and people are labelled for not being a "team player". The safe thing to do, is to do just enough. Corporations easily suffers from groupthink. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Sound familiar?

While you feel like your soul is being crushed every day at work by the next whiff and whim of a manager, at least you get a paycheque and some security, right? How much of that paycheque is spent on vices and entertainment just to make yourself feel better or to cover up the fundamental lack of fulfillment? How secure are you really if you can be laid off at short notice?

Fear is what keeps most people from doing extraordinary things in life. Most people choose to stay in jobs they hate because they’re scared of the alternative. They’re afraid they don’t have what it takes, that they’ll fail miserably and become a homeless embarrassments. This keeps them loyal to companies, who has no intention to return the favour. Instead, they rather put their welfare in the hands of others. The truth is, if you get past the fear and laziness, there’s no reason you can’t accomplish anything you want. Jobs keep you just comfortable enough so you never have a strong enough reason to confront those fears and start living your life’s purpose.

Working for yourself is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will ever do. You discover things you never knew about yourself. And it’s no different when you become a business owner. You’ll never know what kind of leader you’ll be, what kind of boss you’ll be, and even what kind of morals you really have, until you’re in the thick of it. And once you are? You learn a lot about yourself and other people.

You’ll learn a lot more about life than most people. This learning is exciting. It is what we are born to do. No matter how successful you become, every single day will present a new challenge. You’ll have no choice but to figure things out. In order to do that, you’ve got to learn stuff important stuff, like how to relate to people, and how to make things happen for yourself.

Your hard work can result in wealth instead of a big, fat pink slip. When you’re working for yourself, you’re building an actual asset. Knowledge is the main asset that no one can take away from you. So is the revenue stream and momentum of the business. One that you might even be able to sell someday. When you’re working for someone else, you’re dedicating years and years and years and years (and years) of your life making someone else rich. Granted, you get paid for it, but it is not an achievement.

You’ll feel alive when you feel in control of your life and your future. There’s something to be said about the thrill of the hustle, and the love of the game. And nothing feels better than success and the the appreciation from someone else when you've added value their life.

When you are working for yourself and you’re planning to have a family, you can actually see them. You have flexibility with your work schedule, and your time is something that no amount of money could ever, ever make up for.

In Summary

We should keep in mind that the percentage of the population in the labor force peaked in the US of A, back in the year 2000, and has been falling since. The amount of those employed within the total population is at a record 38-year low of 62.6%. Meanwhile, despite slowing, GDP is still growing, so all the work is still obviously getting done somehow. 

Erik Brynjolfsson from the MIT Sloan School of Management thinks this is because not only are jobs outsourced to countries and people that can do it cheaper, but a whole lot of jobs are being taken over by technology or robots. In fact, he makes the point that we are already confronted with being a robot, or a maker/engineer that deploys and controls technology/robots. Many jobs people do can already be done better by technology. Robots are faster, cheaper, and more accurate. If you are doing a job today that can be automated, you should get ready for retirement or a new career. The robots have arrived. 

On the other side of the spectrum, makers and producers are not threatened by the arrival of new technology or robots. They rather revel in the opportunity it provides to make more, newer, better and cheaper. because they are makers, any tool that helps to make better, is embraced eagerly. We are now for the first time able to truly “race with the machine,” harnessing the power of the machine to unleash and amplify our creative energies. More broadly, we are finally making learning a true lifetime journey, finding new sources of meaning, and developing new ways to connect more richly in physical space, so that we all benefit and prosper from the new opportunities that are now available.

What does this mean? Over the past decade and a half, we’ve witnessed tremendous disruption across the economy at a speed that previously seemed impossible. It all revolved around bits. Digital was the edge, the frontier, we connected rapidly and globally through social media, and new business and institutional models evolved to fit the digital world. Now, the edge has become the core. The world is digitized. What we learned with software, web services, and apps about innovation, iteration and collaboration is being applied back to the physical – bits to atoms.

Physical “making” is the new frontier. But this time, the atoms are supported by bits, enabled and enhanced by technology that allows individuals everywhere to connect to the same resources and use the same tools.


I am adding one more possible role to the future of humanity. The role of the entertainer. There luckily remains a human quality that the world of robots have not (yet) been able to touch. Yes, a robot can make a leather bag perfectly. A craftsperson makes a custom leather bag imperfectly, but authentically, with a character that is both flawed but true and real. The same goes for the perfect notes produced by a computer, but it is the pianist that succeeds in communicating emotion and movement in her play. For myself, I can only hope to miss the day when robots become more human than people.

In the mean time, let's continue to make something. Research has shown that people who moved into optimal jobs or are self employed shows significant improvement in mental health compared to those who remain unemployed. Those people who are in poor-quality jobs shows a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remain unemployed.

That's right, having no job at all can be better than having a bullshit one.

If low-skill jobs are more likely to be worse on mental health than medium and high-skill jobs, then for decades we've been increasingly working in newly created jobs that are depressingly worse for us than not working in any job. Give those to the robots. Let it go.

Let's go and make something instead.

Hendrik van Wyk
Producer

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: Grizzly Paw, Canmore

Grizzly Paw Brewing Company

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Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the fifth millennium BC. Where there was civilization, there was beer. Where there is a community, there usually is a craft brewer. The community of Canmore is no exception, it has its very own brewery, the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company.


The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company is a brewery, and a brewpub located on Canmore’s Main Street, in the Canadian Rockies. While Grizzly Paw owner Niall Fraser was living in Sydney, Australia he got the idea of opening a brewing company during his frequent visits to “The Rocks” in Sydney for a pint of beer.

When Niall arrived home in 1992 he started looking for a suitable place to build his own brewpub. During a mini vacation to the Bow Valley Niall found the place where his brewery was to be located: Canmore. On April 29th, 1996, The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company opened its doors to the Bow Valley’s beer drinkers. It was one of the first craft breweries allowed in Alberta, and Canmore was privileged to have it.

The Grizzly Paw brews the community's beer.

Impressions

The first thing that makes an impression when you visit the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company's brewery, is its awesome building. It is located right next to the Transcanada motorway. You cannot miss it. The building's impressive peaks mimic the iconic mountain peaks of the Bow Valley's Three Sisters.


Kristina (Sales and Marketing) greeted us at the door on a cold winters morning with a team of enthusiastic colleagues that were ready to show us around.

The founder, Niall wasn't available to tell us how it all began. Instead, Robert (CEO) and Fred (Operations) enthusiastically showed us what they do while they shared their own personal journey of getting involved with beer, and how they came to join the Grizzly Paw's operations. 

What makes the Grizzly Paw unique is its following in the community of Canmore, and also in Alberta at large. The doors are open at the brewery for anyone to see how it is done. Locals work in the business. Everyone is involved in making something. We even found a lost Kiwi, Willy (Our Tour Guide) telling us how he managed to smuggle in some New Zealand hops that they used in a special edition brew. You can taste some of these special brews every Friday evening at the Grizzly Paw Pub.

The pub on Main Street is where all the festivities take place. It is a famous meeting place and easy to spot as you enter the downtown area. "Meet you at the Grizzly", is a saying that easily rolls off the tongue of anyone that is a little familiar with the town and the area. After a hard day of skiing or mountain biking (or producing), the Grizzly's beer is all you need to recover (or fake recovery).

While we "scouted" the location the day before (we had to have a few cold ones to oil the wheels for production), I looked up at the ceiling and saw something intriguing. There were mugs hanging from the ceiling, each with a unique number. 

We asked the barman what the story is, and he introduced us the the mug club. It is a neat idea. It ensures you have your own numbered mug for your beverages when at the pub. The mug stays at the pub, and only you get to use it. It truly speaks of the role the pub and brewery plays in the community by encouraging people to return regularly to have a Grizzly in their own mug. 


It was only when we interviewed Doug (GM of the Pub) that it really hit home for us, when he explained that mug club members buy beers for others, and leave surprise tokens in mugs. They pay it forward. This is a really neat idea. It gives me yet another excuse to visit the pub. I have to go and check if someone bought me a beer!

The Grizzly Paw is a business and brand that became part of the community of Canmore over two decades. It is encouraging to see how a producer's vision (Niall, the Founder) grew into something that ended up defining a large part of the identity of the community of Canmore. 

Craft breweries play an important role in defining community. It brings people together. It is after all a happy place for the people that live and work in the town. Sadly, large corporations are realizing the value of these craft breweries and are quickly gobbling up the businesses, and destroying the community loyalty to the brand. Hopefully, that won't happen with the Grizzly Paw. 

If it does, Canmore will lose a little part of its soul. Luckily, it never takes long for the next crafty entrepreneur to step up and make something delicious. Beer is the foundation of civilization, a large part of the identity of a community, and it will continue to be for as long as you have hard working producers making things.

Thank you to the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company's team for showing us just how beer is made in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Cheers!

Hendrik van Wyk
Producer and Committed Beer Lover

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Photos

Many people have passed through this watering hole in the mountains.

Join the pint club. Somewhere in there is a beer for me.

Introspection.

Heaven can't wait...

The four sisters of temptation.





Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Producer Awakening

The Birth of a Maker

Six years ago, I was sitting at a cubicle on the 19th floor of a grey office building in downtown Calgary staring at my computer screen. I just returned from another uncomfortable meeting with the CEO of the company. I had enough. Something's been scratching for a while, and I've not been able to put my finger on it. Was something wrong with me, or is it this world we live in?


A simple question kept lingering in my mind. It started as a whisper. Over time it got louder. The more I tried to avoid answering to it, the louder it became, until it rung in my ears all the time. With everything I did, the question kept coming: "This cannot be it. Is it?"

The Question

It started one day when my oldest son asked me what it is I do everyday. At the time he was twelve. I thought it will be a quick and easy answer, but as it goes with questions from inquisitive minds, they don't relent. Neither did he. He kept pushing, no matter how hard I tried to give him a sensible reply. The more I said, the less I liked what I heard.

I've been an independent IT Management Consultant for almost two decades. I've travelled the world, and already lived on three continents. My clients included large multinational companies. At the time I was made the Vice President of IT for a utility company, after delivering a particularly challenging systems implementation. I was having a tough time with a group of luddite executives. No matter what I did, most of what I was hired to achieve for the company was opposed at every opportunity by the CEO. He pushed me to the end of my rope, and something was going to give.

My son's question fell on very fertile ground that day. I was having a hard time to answer the question for myself. I just kept staring at my computer screen and my mind was spinning. My email was open, and little reminders kept popping up in the top righthand corner of the screen. Three hundred emails already screaming for attention. Is this it? Is this what life is all about?

The Grooming Game

The more I observed my circumstances, the more it dawned on me. The corporate upper and middle management world I live in and the work I do, largely resembles the inner social workings of a troop of baboons. Very few people seemed to be making anything. Instead, we spent an awful lot of time and energy grooming each other by exchanging (or not) useless information in all kinds of ways. We do it in meetings, in emails, over coffee, chats and at impressive lunches. Everyone appears terribly busy.

I took the red pill, and suddenly I saw it for what it was. It struck me! No one around me was making anything. We are all very busy being busy. But, when the day is over, what do we have to show for it? Where is the sense of purpose and achievement? What is the value to ourselves and to those around us? An empty email inbox. Fake loyalties. Another meeting. A car we don't own. A house mortgaged to the kilter. The next thing. More stuff. This was not my idea of achievement.

There must be something more out there.

Doubts

Suddenly my contribution to this world is in question. My own sense of purpose and motivation lost. Who then are the people responsible for the world we live in? Who has purpose and the motivation to work at it each and every day?



Humans are learning entities. Curiosity drives learning. Through natural selection, the more curious amongst our ancestors were selected to continue the lineage. The ones that learned better, survived. Clearly, I have the gene in spades and it is driving me nuts.

I resigned my post. My journey of discovery commenced.

I didn't realize then, just how amazing the journey is going to be. So far it has been six years of discovery. I've not only questioned the value of the work I was doing, but slowly I've ended up questioning a whole lot of what we consider to be "normal" life. It is amazing. It has changed my whole perspective on life, for the better. It's been a phenomenal experience already, and more is to come. I

Here are some ideas that stuck:
  • Make Something: There is purpose, fulfilment and value in making something. There is a whole movement towards people making things. Better than any job out there, if you make something for yourself that you like and can use, chances are that others will like it too. It is often the foundational start of a great business opportunity. See more here: http://makezine.com/ and The Maker Movement. It is easier than ever to make something. Technology is more accessible than ever before. Information is freely available. All that is needed is your interest and some energy. In the last six years I've taught myself to be a Barista, Coffee Shop Owner, Baker, Gelato Master, Nougatier, Chocolatier, Leather Carver, Street Vendor, Camera Man, Editor, and the journey just got started. See how easy it is to turn your passion into income: The $100 Startup.
  • Technology is Everywhere: The tools to make things are now more accessible than ever before. No longer are workers held hostage by company owners that control the means to produce. You can order just about anything over the internet. Machines, tools, materials and knowledge on how to use it is freely available. You don't even have to own it. You can borrow it (http://www.makershed.com/).
  • Learn Things: The Internet is exploding with information and educational resources. You can hunt for it on your own, join forums, scour YouTube or enrol for some quick and easy courses. Udemy (https://www.udemy.com) is a favourite. The amazing move in online education (as many classic educational institutions are discovering very quickly) is no longer to bed you for years, a small fortune and mostly worthless certificates. It is rather to get you going with a new skills or information as soon as possible. Thanks to sites like Udemy, there is more of an incentive for experts to share their knowledge than ever before. Now you can learn from people online, that actually knows what they are talking about. Their success depends on your preference for the quality and value of education you receive (now there is a novel thought isn't there).
  • Sell Things: Access to a market is no longer controlled by the landlords. Again, the Internet provides amazing opportunities to sell what you make or create. The well known sites like EBay, Amazon and others are there. For crafts people there is Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/) There is also a proliferation of markets in every town and community. These markets are always on the lookout for local producers and crafts people to sell their wares. The best part of selling your own creations directly to customers, is that you get to earn more of the profits. No need to share with a retailer and wholesaler.
  • Rats in a Cage: If there is one pair of shackles that is the hardest to break in my journey of discovery, it is the shackles of debt, and the lure of more stuff. It comes around every week, or month. The two goes hand in hand. There is an old and popular saying in Dutch: "Wiens brood men eet diens woord men spreekt." It basically means that you are owned by the person that pays your way. If you are working for a job, your employer largely determines your income, standard of living, and a considerable amount of your fate. The same goes for the banks and financiers. If you take their money, you are bound by their rules. The only way to get off the wheel, or out of the cage is to lower your overhead, and let go of credit traps of mortgage, credit card and other consumer financing. Here are some people that will help you get underway: The Minimalists will show you how to declutter your life, get rid of stuff and discover more. The Tiny House Movement will show you how you can live well without a mortgage. If you like traveling, see the Escapees.
  • Money is Relative: I discovered that money is a means to an end. If the end changes, then the means get a whole new perspective. If there is no more point in chasing mortgages, new cars and more stuff, then it is remarkable just how different the role is that money plays in one's life. See this one: Richest Man in Babylon. For twenty years I've put money ahead of purpose, motivation, meaning and fulfilment. I've nearly lost my soul. The funny part is that it is relatively easy to make money and live well. The issue is not making it, the issue with money is finding ways to hold on to it.
  • Mind-Space: In a connected world we can access all kinds of news and information all the time. No mystery there. What is mysterious is that we are now more concerned with events and people that are thousands of miles away from us, with little or no chance to influence our daily lives, than we are with our neighbour or fellow house member.  I am still looking for a term to describe this phenomenon. For the time being let us call it the "connection-fallacy". We give mind-space, thoughts and concern to matters that have nothing to do with us, and is unlikely to have any bearing on us. The Kardashians is probably the best example of the media using the "connection-fallacy" to suck people's into a world of irrelevance. The same goes for matters we cannot control. We cannot control what other people do, or say. We can have an opinion about it, but that is the magnitude of time and mental dedication that should be invested. Every additional moment of concern is wasted time. I've become increasingly jealous about my mental space and the things that I choose to think about. All the time, I am checking if it truly matters. If not, it has no place in my mind-space. It has helped to focus me.
  • Relationships Matter: If there is no need to groom your fellow workers, boss or underlings in the corporate circumstances, then one can become quite selective about the company you keep. I've become impatient with people and relationships that has little value. At the same time I've become more dedicated to the people near me, and the ones that I love. These are the relationships that truly matter. The relationships that doesn't leave at 17:00, or starts at 09:00.

Conclusion

I am on a journey of discovery. Stick around and I will show you more. In the mean time... make something. You will be amazed at how your life changes when you do.

Hendrik van Wyk

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