Artisans, and The First Rule of Uncertainty
or, don’t build your house on somebody else’s land.
When so much is happening, it is easy to get tangled up in the stories that most alarm us. To lose sight of the wood for the trees when we’re trying to balance building the life we want while paying off the debts we’ve incurred for the one we are already living or building the savings to live that aspirational life. It’s a scrabble, and the temptation to succumb to the siren call of those who promise a shortcut, from employers to finance houses, is immense.
The grandparently advice not to build a house on somebody else’s land, to avoid the rentiérs, and not let somebody else live off your back is as sound now as it was when I was given it, although the scope has broadened immensely. The “enclosure” business model has moved beyond the tangible assets of land to those places we build our careers.
Suppose we are a member of a traditional profession - doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professions, where regulation is a necessary component of a legal obligation. In that case, we are building our careers on land owned by those regulators. They set the rules and make the judgements, regardless of our actual skill level. We recognise that and accept it because of the benefits and credibility it lends us, even as we recognise the scope for politics, conservatism, and the dead hand of bureaucracy.
Then there are the bodies that mimic the enclosure model - the quasi-professions, particularly in the “personal development” space, who create courses and certifications of questionable value with no legislative component and seek to exert authority through image more than substance.
Then we have franchises in every conceivable space that trade marketing for compliance, and finally, we have the most fragile of all, the large employers who promise us security and development, but whose attention is on the markets and who will foreclose on our career aspirations at the slightest glimpse of a well-turned artificial intelligence ankle.
The first rule of uncertainty is to understand that certainty is an illusion, and that’s ok. Selling certainty is the most profitable game in town, from “take back control” politicians to pension providers and anti-depressant pharmaceuticals. From the good to the grey, they are merchants of hope, occupying the story economy, selling solutions to stories they have created for us but who, in reality, create very little that is tangible.
As we head into we don’t know what, as the stories we tell about climate change, technology and many others vie for our attention, three things matter. Firstly, we have a commitment to something bigger than ourselves that needs us (whatever that may be for us). Secondly, being part of a community that values us for who we are more than the stories we tell about ourselves, and thirdly, a skill that will help others. Something that constitutes “good work”, that makes us a living in a way that does not cause harm to or exploit others, has an eye to beauty, and understands the concept of “enough.”
In other words, the instincts of an Artisan.
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This resonates so much - commitment, community and giving what is specifically ours to give. Thank you.
Excellent Richard. This is the essence 🌿