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You're Getting Played, but That's Alright

From last Saturday's "Outside the Modern Limits"

Photo by Michael & Diane Weidner / Unsplash

Who got rich during the gold and silver rushes?

A few miners, yes, but mostly the folks that sold stuff to the miners: the saloon keepers, the general store proprietors.

They raked it in.

If I recall my history correctly, such men even advertised out east, telling people they'd get rich if they moved out west (and, wink, buy stuff at the general store and drink at the saloon). Most of the people didn't find gold or silver, but they found work, shopped at the general store, and drank at the saloons.

The Online Business Rush is Just Like the Gold Rush

So it is with today's online economy., Ghost . . . .everyone, everywhere . . . promises people they'll get rich if they become online creators. People will get rich if they start drop-shipping (I fell for that one).

Who are the people getting rich?

The folks selling the online courses and the subscription-based publishing platforms.

Make no doubt about it: you're a dupe if use these services to build an online business.

But that's alright.

Build anyway.

The Successful Entrepreneur Needs Two Functioning Brain Hemispheres

I've spent my entire career helping entrepreneurs. I've always admired them. The risk-taking, the creativity, the agile shifting with changing market conditions.

On the surface, the entrepreneur is the left hemisphere on steroids. He's chasing money, which is power's "master key" (Simone Weil). He must always be alert for, grab, and feed on the next opportunity. His is apparently a left hemisphere gone wild.

But I think there's a lot more to it.

For starters, the entrepreneur is always delving into something new, which is the province of the right hemisphere. Money might be his object, but he appreciates that every business is a process (a R.H. thing).

Perhaps most important, the entrepreneur must always be focused on the big picture. He needs his left hemisphere to engage and pursue specific tasks as the need arises, but always in pursuit of the big picture.

In a lot of ways, the entrepreneur is like Tolkien's elves (my favorite example of the Hemisphere Hypothesis). Right hemisphere in control, but a deft left hemisphere always ready to engage.

It's Hard to be Woke if You're Building Something

Melissa Chen recently said that a person cannot remain woke if she builds something.

When a person builds, she begins to see there's a reason for the way things are. She might not like it, but she needs to deal with it. She might have her woke ideology, but if it conflicts with reality, she needs to monkey-hammer the ideology or her business will fail.

It's like that with anything you build.

Any ideology must firmly be checked as reality unfurls something different. This means that, if you're an entrepreneur, your ideology is constantly getting assailed by reality. You jump into the market and adapt, jostle against bodies and other realities, compete/struggle with real things . . . and it simply doesn't matter if your ideology tells you things ought to be different.

When you check your ideology, you check your left hemisphere.

You see, the left hemisphere loves abstraction: it's a product of the left hemisphere's task-oriented disposition. It values efficiency. It simplifies things and creates rules to narrow its focus and efforts, so it's always abstracting: taking a dizzying array of information, carving out a few decent rules, and then using them to act.

The rules are a good thing and they're necessary for action (otherwise, a person will suffer "paralysis by analysis").

But the rules aren't real things. They're mental shortcuts.

The same phenomenon drives ideology: neat rules and principles tell a person how to act and behave. They make life easier because a person doesn't need to think. She can just reference a rule or principle.

The Entrepreneur Can't Trap Himself in Abstractions

That's why a person who engages in the act of building can't remain woke, which is merely thralldom to an ideology.

If you're seriously engaged in the act of building, your left hemisphere's abstractions are constantly assailed by reality. You start to see that abstractions might be alright, but they're terribly limited. Quietly, imperceptibly, your mind--your thinking--starts to shift. The abstractions become less important as you are relentlessly shown their inadequacies.

Hard reality starts to take hold, the kind of reality you get when soiling your hands, hoisting a box, or interacting with a mad customer.

And as you engage more with this hard reality, your right hemisphere gets stronger. It develops "tacit knowledge," which is a crucial thing.

But that's a whole other subject.