The Promise of the You Economy: It’s Not About You

There’s a bit of a misunderstanding about the promise of the You Economy.

It’s not all about you: your self-worth, your passion, your personal brand.

It’s about your power to create and offer something of lasting value. It’s about your ability to contribute to things that are bigger than yourself. It’s about your access to the machinations of commerce.

My friend Amanda Steinberg, who is also the founder & CEO of the financial education company you simply must subscribe to, wrote recently of the proliferation of personal brands in the wake of the solo entrepreneurship craze.

She describes it–and I squealed when I read this–as a “torrent of social media one-upmanship.” It’s a race for the funkiest website, the hippest photos, the most profound tweets, the cleverest pins, the most raw Facebook updates.

Stand out, or stand down.

And she’s right. It’s a mess.

The You Economy doesn’t promise that you can get paid to be you. It doesn’t guarantee that you can make money & follow your passion.

The You Economy promises that you have the chance to create something that makes others lives meaningfully better.

You can harness your passion, your personality, your pizzazz to realize that imperative but those things are no substitute for stick-to-your-ribs value.

If you’ve found yourself in the one-upmanship game of personal branding or the race to social media stardom, it doesn’t mean your business is doomed. But it does mean you need to stop–today–and evaluate the value your business is creating.

Escape “digiphoria; the cold, joyless comfort of softly glowing screens.”

Venture into the pursuit of something real.

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What are you pursuing? What keeps you up at night? How does that drive you to serve? To create? To question?

The You Economy has asked you to show up. Not just as you are, but in pursuit of the solution to a problem, the answer to a question, the fulfillment of a desire.

Will you rise to the occasion?

What’s going on in the information economy?

Last night, Marketplace shared an interesting – although not at all surprising – statistic:

…the number of movies rented or purchased online will jump by 135 percent this year. But consumers are expected to spend $11 billion buying DVDs and Blu-ray discs this year. Compare that to less than $2 billion they’ll spend on movies over the Internet.

We’re watching more movies (and television) online than ever before. In my own life, it’s a rare occurrence to opt for the 60″ flat screen over my 13″ Mac Air. It should be noted that this is further proof that I am not a man.

Many more of us are opting to watch a majority of our movies on all-you-can-eat-for-one-low-monthly-fee websites like Netflix or Hulu. We’re not purchasing DVDs at the same rate we’re streaming movies.

Ya know how most of us don’t collect CDs anymore? It’s kinda like that.

This is a market going through a drastic shift. This isn’t a trend it’s a complete & utter transformation of an industry.

This is great for consumers right now. Sure, we have our gripes about the quality of what’s available online or the seemingly erratic behavior of some of these companies. But for the most part, we’re in hog heaven. Access, baby. We’ve got access!

Except, according to this same Marketplace segment, the industry isn’t ready for this fundamental shift. What’s new, right? What would be new is if the entertainment industry was actually ready in terms of programming, production, intellectual property, or business model for any of the technological shifts that have of taken place over the last 60 years.

If the industry can’t make the money they need to make in this shift, jobs will be lost, quality could suffer, and studios could close. They’re in search of a new business model. Again.

I know, I know. You thought this was about the information economy not the entertainment industry. What’s the moral of the story?

Don’t let this be you.

Do you want to be the disruptor or do you want to be one of the disrupted?
— Umair Haque

The base price of information today is FREE. And it’s getting cheaper every day.

What used to be a “great value” at $97 is now free.

The information market is as thick as split pea soup. I don’t care how finely you hone the tools you use to sell the information, the first response is and will continue to be, “Is it really worth that?”

And that means for all your brilliance, all your value, it’s harder & harder to justify the price of what you’re offering.

What was today part of a valuable exchange may tomorrow be a tough sell. This isn’t obsolescence. The information is still good. Just not worth as much.

Is that all the genius is worth? Of course not. Once again, it’s an issue of substitutes.
— Seth Godin, What is Bach worth?

Why is this happening?

It gets easier to enter this market every day. More resources for selling information means more people are selling information. It’s a nasty cycle.

To add to that, what was highly prized information even 6 months ago has been read, processed, and released through other products at a cheaper cost. That’s not copyright infringement, it’s how information works. I teach you my idea, that idea gets incorporated into your ideas, you teach your ideas. Rinse and repeat.

This pushes us towards new thinking & innovation. Except when it doesn’t. It’s your job to stay on the cutting edge or risk not only being left behind but left without a penny in the bank.

Complacency is the shortest route to the poor house.

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The other thing going on, of course, is inflated supply. With millions of people trying to make a living off their bright ideas, how long can supply sustain a high value? Not long.

The app economy – think micropayments for small pieces of software – has made this work by catering to scale. A dollar here & there times a million is still a nice payout. How different is the information you have for sale? Are you willing or even able to find a million customers?

When in doubt, think beyond the “usual” way things are done.

There is a limitless number of ways to delight people — not an a la carte buffet of pre-approved information marketing tactics or even types of information that are valuable.

All too often I hear “how to” is the only way to sell ideas.

To cut through the clutter and prove the value of what you have to offer, you must step outside of “normal.” And to never forget that “normal” changes every day.

What’s a booming DVD business today could be streaming for free tomorrow.

Meanwhile, those who stay ahead of the curve, who discover new ways of delivering value, who never stop thinking about what their customers need to become fully realized human beings, have opportunities to reap ever more financial wealth from the information economy.

What does that look like?

Just like the entertainment industry is stabbing in the dark with online distribution, information & insight dealers are looking for the next best thing.

I think the key is to not look for just “the next best thing” but “your next big thing.” Big difference. What is based on your experience, strengths, and unique perspective is more likely to have value staying power.

Case in point: People are paying more for my book, The Art of Earning, than they were 6 months ago.

The tide is changing. Are you ready?

Clearly, I believe the information economy is changing. I believe that even 2 months from now the way people buy ebooks, digital programs, and even coaching will look completely different. I am coaching my clients through this shift.

What we’re not doing is falling into existing models. There is no “first you release an ebook, then you release a course, then you offer full access” thing going on here. There’s no “typical life coaching business model” to draw on. That path is dying (or already dead). Hopefully it signed a DNR.

Conventional wisdom is a bad product. What other assets do you have to trade in? Personal access? Personal experience? Personal perspective? Collaborative wisdom?

You’re going to have to think this one out for yourself. You’re going to have to decide what’s valuable about what you do & how that matches your customers (sometimes unperceived) needs. You must see opportunity where before there was none. You’re going to have to make bold statements about what you believe and how you operate.

And you’re going to have to translate that all into a package that makes sense for your customer.

It’s a tall order.

Are you up for the challenge?


We’re having a similar conversation over at Reclaiming Wealth.
Join in and — get this — pick up a FREE book on the intersection of money & meaningful living.

The Anthropreneur Angle: delivering a good life through other-focused business culture

A good life is one rich in, above all, “human potential,” the capacity to seed, nurture, and harvest all the many different kinds of wealth.
— Umair Haque, Betterness

Building your own business on your strengths, passion, and self-determination goes a long way towards generating wealth on many levels.

You’ll find your reserves of creativity rising, your relationship accounts overflowing, and your energy reports firmly in the black. Raking in a nice profit doesn’t hurt, either.

This is old news.

You Economy businesses must not only support their owners but support others.

This is not as simple as “do no harm.”

It means working in a way that leaves your commercial ecosystems qualitatively & quantifiably better. As Haque describes it in his book, Betterness, it’s a positive paradigm of economy – not simply a “not negative” one.

The positive economic paradigm isn’t just based in the trade of financial assets but the growth of real wealth in all its forms.

In this system, your business thrives because you’re not just solving problems for your customers but helping them live richer lives. Your business doesn’t make life “not bad” it makes life better.

You know your business can make your life richer in many forms: relationally, creatively, financially, intellectually, emotionally, etc.. But have you designed it to make your customer’s lives better in all those ways as well?

Do you make business decisions with the intention of making your customers richer? 

I don’t doubt that some of you already do this. However, in striving to make our businesses work “better,” we often crack open the annals of Them Economy business. We assume the answer lies in the dots that remain unconnected in our non-MBA-trained brains. We assume the answer is hiding in more persuasive marketing copy, finely tuned profit & loss statements, and better launch strategy.

But you are not just another cog in the Them Economy machine.

I love persuasive marketing copy, finely tuned P&L statements, and rocking launch strategies, but the basis & understanding for those facets of business must now arise from an other-focused culture. Your overall business culture must emerge from a focus on generating multidimensional wealth for those you come in contact with.

What is business culture?

Your business culture (and yes, you have one!) is the point-of-view & values that make up all business decisions, communication, and development.

“The thing is, every business has a culture. It may be strong or weak, positive or negative, or just plain hard to spot, but it’s like a form of internal brand in a way. It’s the collective impression, habits, language, style, communication and practices of the organization.
— John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing

You’re not an entrepreneur, you’re an anthropreneur.

An anthropreneur is part of & is creating a commercial culture that serves human beings to their full potential. The language, habitat, rituals, and beliefs of service & those you serve are at the center of your business culture. As an anthropreneur, you are concerned with building wealth into every facet of life – beyond mere profit – both yours & your customers’.

This is why you find the usual answers to business questions lacking. It’s not that those answers are wrong. It’s that in a different time, a different economy, a different culture, you could start with those answers & build from there.

In the You Economy, you must start with your other-focused culture. You must start with the intention to build wealth on all levels for all parties involved. You must know what that looks like, feels like, tastes like. And then you can layer the business-as-usual answers on top of that context. You can evaluate them. You can mold them & manipulate them to work for your business culture.

Consider social media. No, really.

I am a lover of social media. Both for what it has allowed me to access in commerce & for what it has allowed me to communicate to a mass audience. But I’m not a “how to” social media strategist. I’m a user. And maybe a bit of a philosopher.

But social media is an acute & accessible example of the generating multidimensional forms of wealth.

The gurus will tell you how often to tweet, when to post updates, and what types of headlines will generate the most response. That’s fine. There’s even research to prove it, which I highly recommend reading.

You can construct tweets & updates that have no purpose, no greater message, no call to action. They’ll get retweeted. But does that give your business traction? Is anyone really paying attention? Or is it simply part of a paradigm that rewards competitive behavior? I, of course, would argue the latter.

Instead, starting a movement around a single ideal – even for entertainment, internet memes, FTW! – encourages others to build on the conversation. Develop a #hashtag around something you’re passionate about, use it, and watch others add their own emotional & intellectual wealth to the conversation.

Your output is valuable, sure. But the spontaneous conversation created around your output is exponentially more valuable. If that conversation is tied to a business and you leverage it for sales, your financial wealth increases. If that conversation is tied to a nonprofit and you leverage it for action, social wealth increases. There is greater value for you, your customers & compatriots, and those you all touch in the shared wealth than there is in the value of a single source output.

What I’m not suggesting is that we build other-focused cultures at the expense of profit. Sometimes, these cultures will impact profitability – or our ability to squeeze every last cent out of the business model. Businesses & anthropreneurs should be encouraged to profit – lots of it – as one simple indicator of the wealth they are building into the system.

Responsibility to generating all forms of wealth doesn’t negate your responsibility to generate a profit. And it will probably help.

Yes, building your own business is a big step towards you living a better, more fulfilled life. But to get there in the You Economy, you must begin with making the lives of others better. Unleash their human potential – they’ll help you unleash yours.

What’s your anthropreneur angle?


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