Finding Inspiration Again
Lately, over the course of the last few months, I’ve realized that I’m lacking something crucial to building this business: my inspiration to go after anything bigger.
I’m not sure what happened to it, really. As I last wrote about, modest profitability is nice, and comfortable. But what comes next? While drafting that post, I went on an unpublished tangent about finding my ambition’s place in the world — Am I building a “lifestyle” business? Do I dream of something bigger? Conventional business wisdom doesn’t seem to have a great answer for me, and I just haven’t been able to find where I fit.
That is, until this morning, when I saw a glimpse of what I’m really after. It caught my attention near the end of a conversation with a Write.as user, as part of my ongoing “founder chats.”
We had started talking about the fediverse, and the importance of interoperability, and how European governments are chasing the “big tech” business model when there’s a better one already being developed and championed by millions of people: that of local digital communities and small-scale business ventures. We talked about non-profits, and companies giving a percentage of profits back toward initiatives that improve the overall ecosystem.
Also mixing around my brain was a section of Team Human I read this morning, where Douglas Rushkoff mentioned how older economies were optimized more for the “velocity of money” instead of the hoarding of capital. It all coalesced to show me that this is really what I’m after: a large enterprise only for the purpose of putting the wealth toward even better ends.
I want to make a decent living myself, but any more than that I want to put towards helping others do the same, on their own terms, with their own freedom of choice intact. I don’t just want to improve my life, but help improve the ecosystem I live within — both the digital and natural world. And I want to help people see that they have the power to do the same.
In many ways, motivation can come from knowing what you’re against as much as what you’re for. And I think part of my motivation comes from the sense that the tech giants and wisdom-makers of our world — these monoliths we revere — are actually failing us.
As news comes out about how Facebook continues to be a corrupt organization, Apple continues defending its anti-competitive business models, Google continues inventing privacy band-aids that never patch their business model, Amazon continues expecting robotic performance out of human workers, and Tesla continues beta testing its self-crashing cars on pedestrians and emergency vehicles, it’s pretty clear that our most valuable and venerated corporations aren’t actually fit to lead us into utopia.
At this point, have we actually improved anything? Or are we just dressing up old practices in silicon and software? The internet promised the free flow of human knowledge, and the incredible transcendence that would ultimately follow. I think that was partially overblown, at this point — social media problems are age-old social problems, just algorithmically exacerbated. E-commerce is 1870’s mail-order catalogs on a global scale. But what is new, to me, is the chance for people across the world to connect — whether through language or multimedia or commerce.
We just can’t entrust the technological world to the old guard — the ruthless CEOs and their financiers. We can’t wait around for companies to suddenly put shared humanity above shareholders. We can hardly wait around for politicians to take any meaningful action, especially in the US. We need to do it ourselves — and we don’t need to wait.
We need to create more small ventures and more entrepreneurs; more mom-and-pop shops for the digital age. I’d ultimately like to help with this. We need to think about the community we’re building in and building for. We need to put our common humanity above impossible growth.
I see now this is what matters most to me. And I hope that I can show one way it can be done successfully, with everything I’m building and how I’m sharing that progress. If you’re working toward the same ends, I’d love to hear from you.