“What’s exercise?” a question about the future of work

Let’s imagine you somehow got your hands on a working DeLorean – and took a trip back to the not-too-distant past of the pre-industrialised world. And when you arrived, you sat down with someone and asked them this simple question over a semi-dirty glass of water at their kitchen table.

Future Human: Did you exercise today?

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s exercise?

Future Human: It’s when you move your body around and lift things to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, you mean work – is exercise a new word for work? Yeah, sure, I worked today. All day, in fact. All of the daylight hours. I’m very tired.

Future Human: No no, not work…I mean extra movement of your body before or after you’ve finished work.

Pre-Industrial Human: Why would I do that? I’m exhausted. I already did that all day.

Future Human: The reason is that you want to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s staying fit?

Future Human: It means you keep your body in good shape – like ‘thin’, and you remain strong.

Pre-Industrial Human: But my work already does that, and everyone I know is very thin, although I’ve heard stories about the King having a big belly.

Future Human: Well, in the future people do exercise, because they mostly sit down while working, and get fat from eating too much food.

Pre- Industrial Human: Wow, they sit down at work! How much food do they have?

Future Human: As much as they want, all kinds from all over the world…. but let’s focus here…

Pre-Industrial Human: So where do they do this…exercise thing?

Future Human: In gyms, mostly, or running or swimming. Or play sports.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s a gym? 

Future Human: A place with weights, where you lift them, or do classes like spin or aerobics. 

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, where do they put these heavy things they lift? Who are they lifting them for?

Future Human: Oh, the weights are specially made, only for lifting. People just lift them up and down. And the classes teach people how to move their bodies…

Pre-Industrial Human: Wow, this sure sounds strange…

Future Human: Strange, well you should see how they look in their spandex…

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s spandex…

Pre Industrial revolution dirty water

Of course this conversation could go on forever, in many directions and fill the void of the Middle Ages pre-industrial mind with all kinds of physical automation and wizardry of tomorrow. The Exercise Industry, and any flow of money, work and exchange of value associated with it, is of course a pertinent example. The positive energy balance (Read here excess food intake) many humans face would not exist without the invention of machinery to remove human labour in farming and food manufacture. The consequences of outsourcing of gathering our food are not limited only to the gym, weights and spandex. We could add to the list the birth of refrigeration, packaged foods, powered transport, television, the diet industry, Jane Fonda aerobics, education, sporting brands and all manner of things which are the result of us, the first generation in human history to have more people to die from over eating than malnutrition.

For every solution technology invents, it presents two more problems to be solved. It’s a less than a zero sum game where two new revenue streams arrive for every one it takes away. New unintended problems arise and new entrepreneurial solutions can be brought to market. Everything outside of the most basic physical needs are human inventions and the result of some previous invention. But ask me what the jobs in the distant future will be and I can’t tell you, just like a pre industrial human couldn’t fathom the need for ‘exercise’. And while AI will take away the need for many forms of intellectual labour in the near term, we will find new tasks for idle humans. Of this, I have zero doubt. Yes, there will be pain for the unimaginative, unprepared and stagnant humans during the transition, but it’s not the first time this has happened and our personal future depends on our personal actions.

Who knows, perhaps an entire industry might emerge to keep our brains in shape as we outsource left brain logic to the micro chip?

Get secret free chapters of my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – out in May.

Saving your best work

If you, like me earn your living through intellectual or emotional labour (read you don’t lift heavy things) then it’s easy to mistake the former for the latter. It’s easy to think there is a physical limit in our output capabilities, that there are only so many intellectual calories available to be burnt. And because of this we should probably save ourselves, just a little. Play it on the safe side so we still have some brain juice left for the important moment, the moment that really matters.

I used to think that too. But here’s what I found. The more I do, the more I can do. The more creative output I have, the more creative output I come up with. It feels like (at least to me personally) that the more I do, the more I receive back from the creative process. As if there is a creativity multiplier effect. I was was recently scrambling to finish the manuscript for my first book. During the process I was worried that blogging might interfere with the thoughts available for the book. I thought I should save my best work. I didn’t want to waste words on the non vital project. But what I found towards the end, was that the more I wrote the more I had. I just started pumping out the blog entries anyway, and on these days I had the largest and most prolific output for the book. It was counter intuitive to me.

The lessons for me is clear, the more we create, the more we can create. And as far as modern day work goes, it’s important we don’t confuse our physical limitations with our creative possibilities.

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Monday is your friend

I’m typing this on  a Sunday evening. I’ve had various times in my life when I used to hate Sunday, not due to its own features and benefits, but because it was the pre-amble to Monday. Mondayitus.  The dread for Monday was so deep and worrisome that it ruined the day before it which is was a free day. And what is more ironic is that I even liked Thursday more than I liked Friday, because Friday was too close to Monday. It is strange indeed how our minds can work. Sometimes it is worth listening to the strange.

Tonight, I went for a jog and I was genuinely excited about the week ahead and couldn’t even wait for Monday to get some of my projects underway. We are doing another world first for Tomcar Australia which will be global news. I’m attending the FML this Wednesday night to help jumpstart the maker movement in my fair city Melbourne. I’m working on a few Hackathons for some big corporates. I’m doing a new talk on the ‘future of work’, which I will deliver at the co-work in the lane way for the Hub Melbourne. Working on a new technology related property  development. Shipping the Super Awesome thing & person from Romania. Working on my new book and might even be launching my new startup by the end of the week. I can’t wait.

I’ve decided that Monday is our best friend. There is nothing more telling in life than how we feel about it. Monday knows all. It is about time we started listening to our internal mental Monday sermon and tried and create a Monday that Monday actually appreciates. I ignored Monday for a while, but now I’m listening to it again and it is helping me smile.

As far as I can tell our Mondays are the ultimate arbiter of happiness.

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The first 10

When we build our next project we should only worry about the first 10.

The first 10 people we tell.

These first 10 people are people that we know, people that like us, trust us and value our opinion. If they don’t tell anyone, we need to start again. Re-build our project, or find another one. But if they tell another 5. And then that 5 tell another 3. Then we can be pretty sure that it is start start of work that matters. Work that people need.

At the start of our next launch we should really think hard about these three words: the first 10.

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If money didn’t exist

If money didn’t exist what would we do differently? Let me first remind us what this would mean.

In this imaginary moneyless it would mean: That we all had enough to eat. That we all had a place to live. That we all have equal access to healthcare and education. That we wouldn’t get paid for our work. That no-one gets paid for the work they do, in dollars at least.

It means that we do in during the day has an entirely different perspective. In this imaginary world it make sense that we choose our line of work carefully. The work itself, becomes the thing that matters.

It turns out that this is also the best approach for a world that does actually have money.

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Imaginative work

I read a great quote today which I thought was worth sharing:

“There is a recognition dawning that the repetitive linear system which controls work and the worker is no longer profitable. Consequently, the presence of the soul is now welcome in the workplace. The soul is welcome because it is the place where the imagination lives.”

What I like about this is the reference to profit, and that linear systematic work isn’t profitable. If I think about every startup I’ve ever been involved with the real profit has come from the excitement and variety of the work. Internal profit rather than financial. And so my soul has been enriched.

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The multi tasking hoax

Multi-tasking is a hoax. In fact it’s one of the worst developments associated with the personal computer revolution. It robs us of time, reduces focus, and has a negative impact on reaching deadlines adn getting stuff done. So here is my top 10 list of ways to avoid the multi-tasking hoax:

  1. Only have one computer application open at a time
  2. Only check your emails at 2 designated times of the day (say 9am and 3pm)
  3. Don’t write long to do lists (guilty). Instead write down the answer to this question: ‘The one thing I must finish today’
  4. Close your eyes while taking phone calls to ensure you listen to the other party.
  5. Learn to say ‘no’. Tell the other person why, you can’t do it, or offer for them to pick something to drop off.
  6. Meditate daily. Think about long term goals
  7. Focus on depth of activities, not number of activities completed. Do less things, better.
  8. Never tell anyone you are busy. We are all busy. It leads to pin balling around stuff instead of finishing.
  9. have defined goals for the year. Ask yourself each morning how your are moving towards them.
  10. Add your item for number 10 in the comments.

Startup Blog says: Multitasking is your enemy. Avoid it.

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