Tech + T-shirts

Writing

7 June/Posted by aaronplaat

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”

George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)

Recently, congresswoman Katie Porter had a riveting back-and-forth with JP Morgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, regarding pay disparity to Chase employees. She cited an example of a single mother, living in California, who found herself in a monthly deficit despite working a standard 40-hour week.

I’d encourage you to watch the dialogue (link) and share your thoughts. There are a lot of really important questions this sort of interaction provokes; what is an acceptable standard of living? Is this deemed universal for all people, or just those living in the ‘united’ states?

Without delving into political sides (you can paint a pig black or red, it’s still a pig) there’s been a widespread idea that free-range capitalism is a job-creating machine. However, I’ve really struggled with acceptance of this concept, as I see widespread layoffs in some of the largest companies in the world (Oracle, Ford, for example) as autonomous technology increases.

The 2013 film, Her (link) showcased a world where computer operating systems reached a level of autonomy where nothing more than voice dialogue was required to interact with your device. If you’re looking for a great film for your next Netflix-and-f…chill night, I’d highly recommend it!

Think back to the 1940’s, where Dick Tracy cartoons featured radio watches, which graduated into 2-way video devices as the cartoon aged in the years. As a child, I’d get lost in these cartoons and wonder “what if” this technology could someday exist…in my lifetime!

Cellphone technology answered that question pretty quickly. These days, hardly a day goes by where I don’t engage in cross-country/international video chats with friends and loved ones. It’s pretty incredible to think that this technology has advanced in such a short time.

In fact, today’s smartphone is over 32,000 times faster than the computers that placed man on the moon. There’s been a 1-trillion-fold increase in computing power from 1956 to the present day, with no end in sight – proving Moore’s law to be startlingly accurate.

Why share these facts? To encourage you to think about the impact that technology will have on your life. Yes, it’s something you ought to prepare for.

Today, a high number of jobs are getting reduced by the advances in technology. Google, for example, laid off thousands of employees in a single afternoon, once their translation algorithm was proven to be more proficient than their droves of contractors whose job involved translation of languages.

How did this algorithm perform so well? It developed its own language.

Standard practice when translating between two languages is to use a third language as context. E.g. translating English to Spanish, you’d also translate the languages between Japanese (for example) to ensure the finished translation was accurate.

That being typed, the Google algorithm developed its own ‘language’ which was far more accurate than any spoken language used in translation.

As a result, thousands of jobs were cut in a single stroke of code.

If you take a look at the trends in technology, there’s a lot of focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and autonomous technology that doesn’t require human involvement. For example, many companies are now beginning to use auto-responders, chatbots, and non-human methods to communicate with their customers.

Given that customer support is already an industry commonly outsourced to overseas companies, despite the hair-pulling frustrations that can come with language barriers, do you really think that large companies will maintain thousands of ‘human’ jobs that can be accomplished with an AI-powered customer support agent?

If you’d like to take a look at the future, please take a look at the amount of taxes paid by Amazon in 2018 (link) their effective tax rate was -1%.

Where am I going with this? Simply put, please be aware of the future and the potential implications it could have on your occupation, standard of living, and quality of life. I’m a firm believer that AI-technology will have a dramatic impact on all of these.

For example, as advances in self-driving cards continue, the biggest butt-hurt in America will come from the truck driving industry. Despite promises of politicians to protect these industries, the electric semi-truck industry is steering itself (like what I did there?) towards a multi-billion dollar market, with little-to-no need for human operations as self-driving technology continues to plow ahead.

What’s the solution? Own yourself. We live in a world where the truth is increasingly harder to find, and past methods people have relied on for their financial stability (e.g. pensions, medicare, etc.) are scarcer than ever.

There’s never been a better time to learn a new skill, trade, or occupation. The benefit of technology advances is that it allows for faster dissemination of information and freely available education.

For over a decade, building websites has provided me with a reliable income stream that always seems to provide for me when I need it, even during the times where I was working on other ventures and business models.

Even with three years working in Silicon Valley, the most I’ve earned – which required the least amount of time to execute – have all come from skills that I’ve learned from many late nights spent Googling new skills, like website design, online advertising, and eCommerce sales.

The mind is a very powerful thing. And you have full capacity over yours if you choose to own it. I hope you do.

You don’t have to have it all figured out. I rarely do. However, I’ve seen, firsthand, the power of an idea.

I’ll close with one last story for you.

Nearly five years ago, I was returning from a Summer spent teaching in China. On the plane, I was sketching in my little ‘idea pad’ some of my goals for that year.

“Make 10,000 selling…….” I wrote.

At the time, I didn’t know what I would sell, or how I would do it. I simply planted the seed in my mind and trusted it would grow as I nurtured the thought.

It did.

Later that month, I had the idea to start selling T-Shirts. In less than 24 hours, I built a website, placed a bulk-order for the shirt designs, and registered to sell the shirts at a local Pride event.

On the day of the event, I showed up to the park and began to set up the booth. I was full of optimism until I looked up at the sky; it looked like rain.

That afternoon, Dallas had a torrential rainstorm, which sank my heart as I realized I was in the red for this new business venture and hadn’t sold a single shirt. Hours ticked by, and the shirt sales were slow. I pushed through a smile and did my best to stay positive, despite the ongoing downpour.

Your life can change in a manner of seconds – or hours. Suddenly, there was a huge influx of sales and I couldn’t keep up with the customers that wanted to purchase the shirts.

“These are the best shirts at the parade” customers said, to my glee.

Within a few hours, I broke even. By the end of the day, I had made a profit.

Finishing the event, I found myself with a decent amount of leftover inventory. So, I asked some of my friends if they wouldn’t mind helping me sell them at another Pride event (Fort Worth, Austin) while I left town for a scheduled visit with family.

I remember being in Columbus, OH, watching the Buckeyes play as my phone exploded with orders. Every text message meant $25-75 of revenue for me.

When all was said and done, I made over $10,000 selling those shirts – in three days.

The lesson behind the story? Push yourself. You don’t need to have the full picture of an idea – but you must push past your fears and allow your ideas to grow. They will.

Second, it’s very difficult to do things on your own. Everybody needs somebody sometime. Today, I need your hand. Tomorrow, you need mine. It’s simply the way the universe works.

With the massive technology changes around the corner, it’s very easy to paint yourself in a corner of fear. Instead, I hope you’re able to leverage these tools to your advantage, and find new ways to empower, equip, and help yourself while also helping those around you.

If you ever need an ear to help, or bounce an idea off of – please don’t hesitate to write me via aaron@tripleskinny.com – I’d love to jam with you <3

You can do it!

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Posted by aaronplaat

COMMENT (1)
  1. Avatar
    Michael Vacca
    3 months ago

    Aaron, what a brilliant inspirational article. I needed this read today to open myself more to my ideas and crush my fear! All love to you brother!

    Reply
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