“Untethering” is a major 21st-century trend, from Uber to minimalism to remote workplaces. How can we get the most freedom from this social trend, without getting lost in the shallows?
More and more people are decoupling from traditional models of work, housing, relationships, possessions. This can be a recipe for liberation, or for hollowness and isolation.
In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:
- Charging by the hour vs. charging by the awesome (thanks for this phrase, Taylor Lindstrom!)
- Why everyone complains about millennials
- The key to untethering in a constructive way
- Managing distraction and trivia
- Defining yourself through what you add, not just what you take away
Note: February 29 will be a special Q&A episode — I’d love to get your questions in the comments below, or you can grab me on Twitter @soniasimone.
Listen to Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer below ...
The Show Notes
- The Digital Commerce Summit (our live event in October) — I’d love to see you there!
- Cal Newport’s new book on Deep Work, including some specific recommendations on scheduling your distraction time
- Brian Clark’s discussion of Deep Work on the Further newsletter
- Steve Kamb’s fun and useful new book, Level Up Your Life, with suggestions on how to untether from traditional expectations and limitations
Sonia Simone: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me, I’m a co-founder and the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital.
I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business or your career exactly the way you think you should.
I was talking with my real estate person this weekend, who is this really interesting person who’s been living on her own terms for a lot of decades now. We were talking about a new trend in my city — new apartment buildings are renting nice brand-new units furnished.
The untethering of our century
21st-century economics will require us to untether. In other words, more people are decoupling from traditional work, home, mortgage, ownership, etc.
More and more people are working remotely — untethering from a specified office, either part of the time or all of the time like the folks in our company.
Along with untethering from a physical space is often an untethering from a specific schedule. The first thing you realize when you manage remote workers is you have to look at output rather than number of hours clocked.
This is also important for freelancers — as Taylor Lindstrom says, don’t charge by the hour, charge by the awesome. Strive to get compensation by project & finished result, vs. compensation for time.
Car2Go and the other carshare services untether us from owning a car.
Uber & Lyft untether professional drivers from the burdens of licenses. I have a friend who’s technical, and she’s doing some driving for Lyft while she lines up her next tech gig.
I’m not actually a big fan of Uber. The regulations have a purpose. But it doesn’t matter whether I’m in favor of it, because it’s happening.
In my city, rentals are going crazy. Millennials already owe six figures in student loans, they don’t want to take on more debt. My real estate friend says that at least for her, younger people really don’t have a lot of interest in taking the plunge into ownership. Now of course that isn’t everyone, but I think it’s going to be an enduring trend.
Why everyone complains about the millennials
People are so funny about the millennial generation, which already in itself is a big floppy catch-all that partly means, “young people who companies are having a hard time marketing to.”
Shelley told me about a friend of hers who has a tech job. He’s really good at it. His skill set isn’t particularly easy to find. His boss can’t do what he does and isn’t willing to learn.
So if the boss isn’t respectful, doesn’t treat the interaction with respect, this guy will walk, and take his skills with him.
Some call it entitlement, but for me, it’s only entitlement if you don’t have the skills. If you do have the skills, it’s self-respect. So: make sure you develop the skills.
I think actually this mindset comes from people who get that there is no loyalty. The job you feel that you’re stuck with is the one that will fire you exactly at the point when it will really leave you hurting. They don’t give loyalty because they know there’s no loyalty on the other side.
I’m talking about the more traditional companies, the ones aligned along 20th century lines. The ones I won’t work for any more.
We work super hard at Rainmaker Digital, at Copyblogger, so we don’t have these kinds of structures, because I don’t think they work any more. Treating your team with respect is the only way to keep great people, and great people are the only ones you want to have.
And keep in mind the flip side of this: If you want to work in that environment, you have to be great. You have to be dedicated, you have to keep learning. Cal Newport has a pretty good book on this, Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You. That concept is probably more important than the specific book about it.
But: It’s not just a millennial thing. Shelley has been like this forever. (Couldn’t tie her shoes until she was 14.) I’ve been like this forever, and I’m dangerously close to 50. Barbara Sher.
The theme of this podcast — don’t lie and don’t hurt people, and otherwise live by your own rules. That’s a theme of untethering.
The dangers of shallowness
Untethering is a massive trend, and for the most part I find it liberating, but I have some concerns as well.
There’s a certain sliver of the minimalist community that is minimalist about relationships. So you go live in Costa Rica for 6 months, you have a relationship, and then you move on.
If that feeds your soul, more power to you. To some extent, this is just how we are when we’re young. Serial monogamy. You can go through 8 relationships a year living in the same neighborhood you grew up in, nothing wrong with it.
But when it becomes part of your identity, when you think it’s the right way to be forever, I think there’s some potential to miss out on some of the juiciest part of your life.
I think it’s a bad idea with “untethering” becomes shallowness.
Do some deep work. On yourself, on what you do for a living, on some hobby, on languages or culture, on your friendships.
Untether from trivia and distraction, too. Take social media breaks. Take television breaks. Know thyself — you know what you’re tethered to that’s truly trivial, that’s not building anything. For me it’s Facebook. I’m untethering, slowly slowly. But my husband can be on Facebook and it doesn’t eat his day. We all have to figure out our own stuff.
For me — and of course, you live life by your own rules, not mine — untethering is liberating when it frees you for deep focus on something more interesting than the 20th-century idea of stability.
The old structures are crumbling like the demolition of an office building — the interior goes first. You don’t see the exterior go until the structure is already gone. It’s not some Black Swan, to use Nicolas Taleb’s phrase — the whole century is a black swan. In other words, it’s not one disruptive event — it’s a shift that’s happening just below the surface, but we can already see that the effects will be profound.
The meteor has just started to hit the outside edges of the atmosphere. Be the small, nimble mammal, not the dinosaur. Security doesn’t come from finding a big company to take care of you. Security comes from learning how to take care of yourself.
Let’s talk more about this!
I’m going to be talking about this phenomenon more in October at our live event, which will be in Denver, Colorado. Specifically, I’m going to be talking about how to use this phenomenon to surf to where you want to go and who you want to be, instead of letting it wipe you out.
Also, drop me some questions! February 29 is going to be a QA podcast, so let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.
You’re right. There’s been a seismic shift in how we feel about “safe” jobs, because they simply don’t exist anymore.
Mothers who try and re-enter the workplace after taking maternity leave have long realised this after their job has been handed to someone else while they were away. Then they’re told, “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business”.
So, if it’s just business. Why shouldn’t women start their own? It’s lonely and thankless in the beginning – but it’s how the world will (slowly) change for the better.
David Villalva says
Oh my gravy, I suddenly felt guilty for watching Supergirl while listening to this episode. 😉
Straight up, thank you for this because I need to challenge myself to get more done at night by decreasing the television time.
Last, I do have a question I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I keep hearing great entrepreneurs talking about how you don’t go where the puck is, you go where it’s going. I keep thinking about this in my little platform I’m steadily building… I see online courses everywhere and I’ve yet to launch an MVP (this year I will though). Anyway, I’m trying to think bigger and farther down the road of time. So I keep asking myself what signs I should be looking for… or what trends… or which great entrepreneurs to watch… Bottom line, what’s a good or healthy way to analyze everything being done out there so I can try and go where the puck is going?
Thanks Sonia. You always bring solid content, written or audio. 😉
Alfred Chung says
I’m so connected with this episode!
I’m already living the untethered life, just that now after hearing this, you put the terms into perspective and give it a language to describe the phenomenon.
I love the ending statement: “Be the small, nimble mammal, not the dinosaur. Security doesn’t come from finding a big company to take care of you. Security comes from learning how to take care of yourself.”
So true for me.