I have questions, so many questions in this write up. Come explore an idea with me!
I was sitting outside in the sun on a recent morning. I watched a guy fly by me on a byrd, one of those electric scooters. They might not be in your city, but they are rampant in mine.
It’s a simple but effective business model. You create an account in an app, link a credit card, and when you find a scooter, scan a QR code and go. You get charged by the minute.
The young kid skidded to a stop, flung the bike like a baseball player with a mouthful of chew spits out a black puddle of cancer-juice, and walked inside of a store. No thought for what happens, what may come later, who was around him. No self-awareness.
Why would he care? He got what he needed and moved on.
It spawned so many thoughts about our world of access and what used to be a world of ownership. I take no sides in this opposition or the latest movement, but I do know it has implications and consequences that we have yet to feel.
Here’s a list of some access based businesses that have changed the landscape of an industry forever:
Phone Companies with “lease” plans
The common thread in these businesses is that access is valued more than ownership. My position is that without ownership, we cannot have some critical elements of growth and sustainability.
If I’m unable to admit that my business needs to change in order to grow, to own that we are not there yet, why would I give it my all to change it? Why not just find a business that hooks me with how easy it will be to make millions? (Ever heard an MLM pitch, haha)
Access businesses like the above, weigh heavily on your usage. That’s all they can offer, right? “Here, use our car for your next ride.” That’s the best that they can do. While this service has proven valuable, what would happen if we continued to move in the direction of an access economy.
Seemingly, what these businesses do is they mitigate the downside risk, and maximize the upside. There’s no negative consequence, aside from cost, for taking an Uber. You can get around just like you need to, and you don’t have to own a car.
How cool is that!
On the surface I do support it, but if we are looking at an overall trend that sweeps into other places of our life, my question is – will this get us to somewhere better or will it challenge us with numb, insensitivities?
Extend the trend out into things like relationships, dating, building a team, service to others, trauma, etc. If I can bypass the hard parts and the things that require intention and labor, why would I face and deal with them in the first place?
If we are minimizing the downside, we can avoid anything painful, negative, incongruent with our beliefs, difficult, or culturally exceptional.
More importantly, will our sensitivity heighten, as it already has? Will we be able to sustain differences in opinion and lifestyle if we are able to, in every other facet of our lives, avoid things we don’t like?
The impetus for this post was thinking about culture. I love culture in places I’ve visited thanks to my travel hacking system. When you can travel the world at no cost, why not right? But it came to me that we, here in the states, significantly lack culture.
You cannot own culture if you live in access.
Culture is about ownership – this is how we are, who we are, good and bad. Culture in business, mine specifically, is so important to me. And it comes with true ownership – realizing that I am the start of our culture, for good and bad.
But if we are conditioned to just need something and discard it when we don’t have a demand for it, how can we nuture and cultivate it? How can we grow and tend to the conversations and difficult relationships that create a symbiosis of a people?
Businesses rely on good people that can ride difficult and uncertain changes to success. Athletes are subjected to lots of failure and heavy workouts that require discipline in the face of difficult sacrfices. Relationships require a give-and-take in order to maintain the balance that two people need to thrive together.
That all requires us to own our truth – not to by pass it with something that gives us the upside without the down. Culture is a component of a country’s truth, is it not? Where we accept and own a particular set of characteristics – like generosity, acceptance, tolerance, love, openness – be it whatever the collective decides.
Further, and most dangerous, I deeply wonder whether we – because access is becoming normal – are avoiding anything long term. Commitment to job, to art, to financial returns, to relationships.
I will own homes (I don’t currently), but in general, will I move away from that because access is what I value. If our values move to access, I wonder what room is left to truly own who we are, what we want, and what we will accept or reject.
Most deeply, I wonder about happiness.
Will we accept simply accessing happiness because of our cultural standards, instead of learning to own it, cherish it, and build a life of meaning?
What do you think?