Uptown Bourgeois is an arts, news, and culture blog created by New York-based freelance writer Jefferey Spivey. UB explores universal themes through a black, queer lens. 

Podcast: Work: Freelancers Are The Future But They Need Balance

Podcast: Work: Freelancers Are The Future But They Need Balance

00:00:05;23 - 00:00:12;27

ME: You're listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. I'm your host Jefferey Spivey. Let's be weird, snobby, and intellectual together.

00:00:16;09 - 00:00:26;14

ME: This week, I want to talk about work.

(clip: “The Changing World of Work” from Microsoft)

The closer we looked the more we realized that the way we work has not kept up with the rapid pace of change in the world.

00:00:26;27 - 00:00:47;24

MS: The offices and cubicles we work in, the buildings that they’re placed in ,the software and the hardware that we use, they're really all designed for a world of information scarcity. But the world's really changed in the last decade. And we now live in a world of information abundance. People are collaborating, communicating with friends online, they play games.

00:00:47;24 - 00:01:07;10

MS: They have this wonderful, rich experience of technology in their personal lives and then they go into the office. We naturally are beginning to look at our physical environments to have those types of performances. We expect it to be interactive. We expect it to be faster. We expect it to allow us to do things in a more spontaneous and intuitive way.

00:01:07;10 - 00:01:17;21

MS: We've been running companies the same way since the Industrial Revolution, when we made them purely for the purpose of doing the same thing over and over at scale as efficiently as possible.

00:01:17;21 - 00:03:50;24

ME: That clip was from a 2016 Microsoft video called “The Changing World of Work”. What that clip describes is something I encounter at least a few times a week, every week. This person who was groomed in an old school professional world and can't see beyond it. For example ,this week I received an unsolicited recruitment e-mail from a Gentleman we'll call Bob. Bob works for a machinery manufacturing company and wants to know if I'm interested in a business opportunity. However, he doesn't describe what said business opportunity is. Immediately, I know what this is. Without fail, every single time that a person emails me about a vague business opportunity, it is one of two things:

A.    It's a legal pyramid scheme, otherwise known as multi-level marketing. This is where I buy products from a company and then start selling those products. Then I encourage others to sell and use the products too and I make a cut of what they bring in.

B.    It's a work from home opportunity that involves cold calling, transcription, or data entry.

Not to shit on the people who do like these types of jobs but I'm not interested .When I think about a life of entrepreneurship, I'm thinking bigger than simply working from home. But guys like Bob see the word freelance in my LinkedIn description and automatically assume I'm a corporate reject, I'm out of work, or I make a measly amount of money. In my case, none of these things are true. So I politely respond to Bob letting him know that I'm too busy chasing my dreams to take on whatever business opportunity he wants to share with me.

An hour later someone else from the same company reaches out and proceeds to give me a full-page rundown of the company history and mission. Like, if I said I didn't want to know more, why would you send me this? Talk about not being able to read the room. I respond to this guy more directly than I did to Bob. I tell him I never expressed any interest in exploring this type of work. I'm only interested in work in my field, which this business opportunity doesn't seem to fit and I'd appreciate if he didn't send any further communication. This was the last of Bob and his co-worker. But this isn't the first time I've had to deal with a Bob.

The people described in the Microsoft clip, who are unhappy with work  and who are accustomed to working in an environment built around information scarcity, are the ones with the most narrow vision of what work is. To him, work is 40 hours a week in a cubicle, a 401k, and an annual raise. Maybe a bonus. Anyone who works outside of those parameters looks like a prime candidate to join the traditional workforce. Rather than respecting the fact that I and so many others have chosen to go about it differently, he tries to force his beliefs on me and that pisses me off.

00:03:51;06 - 00:04:04;23

(clip: Upwork commercial)

UP: Hey Mr. President, it's Upwork. Need a social media strategist? There we go. Upwork: whatever you need done, get it done with a freelancer.

00:04:05;02 - 00:04:17;05

ME: That was a short advertisement that Upwork has been running the last couple of months. Upwork is a freelance platform where you can book any kind of job you can think of. You establish contracts with your clients. Upwork protects your payments while you work.

00:04:17;06 - 00:05:21;18

ME: You get paid once your work is approved. Upwork also releases an annual study about freelancers and the changing workforce. Based on the most recent study, 57 million people freelanced in 2017 and by 2027, the majority of the American workforce will be freelancing. Did you hear that Bob? In ten years’ time, if you haven't retired yet, most of the people you'll encounter will be like me. They'll have the word freelance in their LinkedIn job title. They'll work from home or some kind of remote office. They'll decide when to work and when to take off. They’ll decide when they can and can't take on new projects. And most important, they'll be in charge of their personal and professional destinies. This Upwork survey is an indication of how quickly the professional landscape is changing and every time I get a message from someone like Bob, I realize there's a whole generation of people out there who aren't ready for this shift.  But they don't have time to resist in their cubicles. They need to prepare to join us on the other side. Or at least, if the Bobs of the world don't want to join us, at least stop sending us those fucking emails about your shady business opportunities.

00:05:21;29 - 00:05:39;18

ME: It's a new year and this is a new podcast. Thus, I still need new sponsors. iI you like what you hear and you're interested in helping make the show bigger and better, let's talk. Shoot me an email at Jefferey at Uptown bourgeois dot com. That's J E F F E R E Y at Uptown bourgeois dot com.

00:05:43;16 - 00:06:35;22

ME: Balance is something I struggle with. As you know, I write, perform, and produce this podcast 100 percent on my own. I also run the attached website for which I publish one think piece each week as well as the daily Bourgeois Brief. I promote the pieces and the brand across numerous social media platforms and this is all in addition to my freelance career, which sees me juggling anywhere from 15 to 20 different editing and content projects each week. I'm also in the process of editing a novel and short story, both of which I'll start to shop in the next month or so. I have a lot on my plate and I tend to work a lot. This isn't to boast; it's to illustrate the fact that I often take on a lot. I think about work most of every day. Even on the weekends. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to jot things down on my phone so I can go back to sleep. My mind never turns off because I constantly fear that I'll drop a ball and if I drop a ball, something will go haywire.

00:06:38;06 - 00:06:44;02

(clip: Fight Club)

TD: You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank.

00:06:47;20 - 00:07:00;10

TD: You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

00:07:04;07 - 00:07:59;23

ME: Cinephiles, you already know that was Tyler Durden (a.k.a. Brad Pitt) in Fight Club. And you know what? He's right. I am not my job or my fucking khakis, though I don't wear khakis. And neither are you. You're not your job or your fucking khakis either.

I'm not so much concerned with work life balance. Entrepreneurs are rarely afforded an even split between the amount of time they spend at work and on their personal lives. But I am concerned about finding meaning in my life beyond my work. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. But because I love writing, I tend to stuff it into as many corners of my life as possible. Sometimes I feel like my hands might fall off. I have to learn how to take a break sometimes and not always bite off more than I can chew. A little break here and there will probably infuse my work with more enthusiasm, poignancy, and focus. The Cut’s Brad Stuhlberg wrote about this early last year, about finding meaning in your life beyond work. The answer, it seems, is to lose yourself completely in something other than work. He writes:

00:07:59;29 - 00:09:51;11

ME: Attempting to master a craft may seem inherently selfish but that's not the case. In interviews with over 100 highly productive scientists, artists, and other creative types, the psychologist Mihaly C. discovered that many found meaning in their lives precisely because they lost themselves in their pursuit or because they turned themselves over to it. He coined this “vital engagement”, or a relationship to an activity that manifests when one becomes fully absorbed in it, meaning, Mihaly C writes, “derives from the connection of the individual to a tradition, enterprise, and community of practice that lie beyond the self.”

The specific craft need not matter. For some, it may be running. For others, sculpting, cooking, or playing the cello. What does matter is that you respect and honor the traditions of the craft, pursue long-term progress in it, and participate not for the sake of raising yourself up (i.e. an ego boost) but for the sake of transcending the very notion of yourself altogether. Writing in his cult classic and my personal favorite-ever book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, philosopher Robert Pirsig explains that when an actor becomes so engaged in his or her act that it becomes hard to separate subject from object, pianist from piano, a special kind of Quality emerges. The capital Q here is Pirsig’s, not mine. For him, quality is not an adjective but a unique event in and of itself. “Experiencing this kind of quality,” he writes, “is key to a meaningful life.”

I bring this up in this podcast specifically because though freelancers are leading the way with the future of work, freelancing is also unearthing new complications. We are in uncharted territory and we're encountering things that none of us have prepared for. So remembering to find that balance, that meaning beyond your work can be helpful. Whether you're just starting and things are sucking right now, or you're at the top of the game, this lesson is crucial. We are the future of work but we are not our work.

00:09:57;10 - 00:10:12;10

ME: Thanks so much for listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Check back for new episodes every week and subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud so you never miss out. If you love it ,share it with your friends. If not, shoot me an email and let me know what you'd like me to talk about instead. Until next week….

00:10:14;03 - 00:10:21;16

ME: The Uptown Bourgeois podcast was written, produced, and edited by Jefferey Spivey and is an official property of Uptown Bourgeois, LLC.

00:10:21;26 - 00:10:24;22

ME: All original music is provided courtesy of RMVD. 

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