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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.


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

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