Does that phrase startle you? It floored me the first time I heard it from Mara Zepeda, a thriving Portland, OR entrepreneur. From my big company days, I’d regarded networking as a pretty relentless, sterile exercise. Go to a conference, collect business cards. Call 20 “contacts” and be satisfied if anyone engages at all.
The comforts of a big company logo and a shared contact management system could keep me going forever. Flying solo, however, that hard-nosed old system falls apart.
I found myself swapping favors with other strivers, hoping that time and trust would take us to a good place. We started with trifles like restaurant recommendations or a few minutes of editing advice on a blog post; eventually, we teamed up on everything from high-profile speaking engagements to a hike across the Grand Canyon. We owned up to our vulnerabilities and created opportunities for each other.
The result: friendships across America (and England!) that straddled work and our off-duty identities in ways I hadn’t expected.
To manage our cities, we need a work culture that encourages mobility, balances profits with purpose, and values autonomy. Cities need a workforce that can meet challenges where they are. My latest for HuffPost looks at how a distributed workforce can provide the fuel urban initiatives need to take off running.
The platform economy has the potential to be wildly democratizing, because more transparent networks for finding work should mean larger numbers of people getting new opportunities. But many of these platforms don’t let workers have any control over their reputations.
Those of us striving to organize workers in the online economy have to build a theory for reputation portability and protection into our other work. We can’t let reputation management become disaggregated from the platforms on which workers get work. We should build organizations that can evolve as the tech work evolves.
I wanted to provide a resource page for those who want to know what’s out there. Not just for travel bloggers or food writers, but for anyone seeking to build a flexible life in their own way. This includes not just digital nomads, but also work and travel visas, volunteer work and much more.
I failed as a digital nomad. I’m packing it up and heading home. Before I continue, let’s set some things straight: 1. I am NOT blaming my failure on the digital nomad lifestyle; 2. I am still 100% committed to both travel and creating a life I love, on my terms. I am heading home to re-strategize, learn from my mistakes, and get back out there. So, what happened? What were the mistakes I made as a digital nomad, and how can you learn from them?
Access to 100+ million free wifi hotspots, connect with other nomads to get advice or organize meetups, browse the world’s largest transit app supporting more than 1,200 cities in 70+ countries, find or organize co-living arrangements and more.
Patrick Caughill at Futurism put together a list of Ray Kurzweil’s predictions, one of which relates to virtual reality (VR) and the future of work. Basically, brain-computer interfaces could precipitate a more ubiquitous “telepresent” workplace where we jack in whenever, from wherever—similar to how we use our phones now, but worlds more immersive. That said, I’m not sure how this would play out in line at Starbucks.
“[Kurzweil] predicts VR will advance so much that physical workplaces will become a thing of the past. Within a few decades, our commutes could just become a matter of strapping on a headset.” I don’t know about 20 years, but at some point remote jacking will be a thing, even on Mondays.
There are benefits. Barring health concerns, VR could up productivity while downgrading the effects of isolation. Jacking in for a meeting every few is better than wasting away on a train. On Wall Street, my Queens commute vaporized an hour plus each way. More with bad weather. Talk about stress.
More than a third of the US workforce freelances in some form. That’s 55 million people. Research suggests that people who suffer from loneliness are prone to serious health problems. VR could bring reluctant loners into the fold, inspiring creativity and infusing a sense of community into the daily routine.
Here’s the thing about humans. We need face time. Facial and behavioral cues, however subtle, are the currency we use to navigate social contexts, especially in professional settings. Even now, leading a three-way from my cell isn’t half as good as Skype or Gchat (the limitations of which I can strongly affirm).
Space drives behavior, so this virtual gig better deliver. How and at what cost VR will cut through the noise is anyone’s guess. Will dropped calls be the same? Will the VR itself be a distraction? Either way, we’ll learn to live with the static until the interface improves. With any luck, we’ll get some work done, too. And that’s not all.
As Caughill points out, VR could even shift the urban landscape. “Without the need for people to live close to work, we could see unprecedented levels of de-urbanization. People will no longer need to flock to large cities for work or be tethered to a specific location.” I say wanderlust is more of a threat, but that’s just me.
With at least 6 billion people living urban by 2050, regardless of VR, the global economy will have its due. Hopefully, there will always be reasons for people to stay in cities. I don’t think the VR itself will make them come or go. I do believe, at least on a snowy day, it will make them happier.