I have made my annual

by francine Hardaway on August 11, 2004

I have made my annual pilgrimage to northern California to get my dogs out of the heat and visit with my daughters, both of whom escaped to the Bay Area for higher paying jobs than Phoenix had to offer–which led to my efforts to develop Phoenix’s entrepreneurial community.

My office up here is a Starbucks, either in Pacifica or in Half Moon Bay, where I can spend the day with my laptop doing the same work I would be doing in Arizona.

And I am not alone. Half Moon Bay is about 45 minutes from San Francisco (without fog) and about the same distance from San Mateo and the rest of Silicon Valley. Most people here do not commute to the “City.” They do what I do — they work out of their homes or the local Sbux. What I’ve discovered is that there are two types of “workers.” Type A, let’s call them, are stressed out, time-constrained office or blue collar workers who report somewhere at about 8 AM, stay there all day, and juggle the demands of “real life” on weekends or after 5. Or, if they are bold, on the office computer. These workers are losing their high paying jobs to outsourcing.

The other half, Type B, get up and walk their dogs, do their Tai Chi, or watch CNBC. They log on to the Internet, return email, hop on and off conference calls, and run their errands in the middle of the morning. They may or may not be self-employed.
They don’t seem to be hurting for money. The entry level home price here is nearly $600k, and as one realtor told me yestday “the bottom holds up real well.” Meaning the price of your home does not go down if you are in an entry level home.

These people continue to live a high quality life blocks from the beach despite the fact that the Bay Area has lost over 200,000 jobs in the past years. And, as we are reminded all the time by critics of outsourcing, those jobs are not coming back. Many people believe the hegemony of Silicon Valley is over. And yet, real estate prices here on the Coast continue to rise. And they rise in Arizona as well.

So what is really happening?

The idea of “work” is changing. No longer do we have to go somewhere to work. We don’t have to aggregate people at job sites. People can work anywhere, any time, any time zone. They may not refer to what they do as a “job.” The most common reference is to consultants. Everyone’s a consultant.

But really we are Fast Company’s Free Agents — members of ad hoc teams. We come together for specific projects, and then disband. We hire each other as vendors and suppliers. We re-combine endlessly like particles in quantum physics. And we are the wave of the future.

Outsourcing or not, there aren’t going to be “jobs” in the future. Even the people who report somewhere at 8 AM to make coffee or mow lawns will not have jobs in the old sense of the word. They, too, will be on ad hoc teams: they will mow the lawn on an as-needed basis or work at Starbucks for no more than 25 hours a week.

In this sense, we are moving toward a totally entrepreneurial society. We will all be responsible for ourselves, for our own economic viability.

As someone who has done this almost all her life and who trains others to do it, I’m not afraid of this. I can open a business at the drop of a hat and make enough to survive. But I can understand how, if you grew up expecting someone else to take the responsibility for your well-being, you could be scared to death of the new paradigm.

That’s why I went to Kansas City last summer to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, whose mission is to encourage self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship, and became certified as a Fasttrac program administrator. Not just to foster technology companies. Not just to advise the elite who are after venture capital. But to create self-sufficient human beings who can survive the vicissitudes of life — including outsourcing.

(This is my annual pitch for Fasttrac, which begins again in September. For information on how to become a part of the new, economically self-sufficient society, sign up at www.fasttrac.org. In Arizona, look for Stealthmode Partners as your provider. And if you’re a vet, go to www.veteranscorp.org, where you can receive a hefty subsidy).

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