Alternative Ways To Work In The 21st Century

Just another day at the office…

Work just isn’t what it used to be. The days of cubicle farms, standard career ladders, and pension plans are over. Instead, competition for top talent rivals the NFL Draft, freelancers write code from Thai beaches, and recent graduates tremble at the roller-coaster prospects of modern employment. How can we thrive in the face of so much uncertainty?

This is a topic that’s very close to my heart. As an author, I spend a lot of time wrestling with my next story at home and on walks (the sequel to tech startup thriller Uncommon Stock). As an adviser to entrepreneurs and investors, I’m usually found in a decked out conference room or mircro-roaster coffee shop. I’m allergic to structure. In fact, I’ve worked independently since university and doing so has exposed me to some of the top business leaders, creators, artists, companies, and venture investors out there. Plus, if my productivity starts to nose-dive, I go on a run at 11AM.

But I’m not special at all. In fact, there’s a whole new generation of professionals who are turning Corporate America on its (well-groomed) head. They are redefining what work means, tackling big problems, and achieving desk-defying success. And those hoping to doff the suit-and-tie before the next TPS report might want to pay attention.

Eric Schweikardt is the CEO of Modular Robotics. Not only did he start a robotics company after finishing architecture school, he established manufacturing in Boulder, CO with better economics and outcomes that in China. Modular Robotics’ Culture is designed to be as fun as their products. They’ve turned operational tasks into games and you have to be careful in their office or you’ll trip over a golden retriever.

Jessica Semaan is the CEO of The Passion Co. She is following her dream of helping others achieve theirs. She is building a business around helping people transition from corporate to creative and her programs are based on concrete outcomes, not cute slogans. Her cohorts could supply a few dozen additional examples for this post.

Cammy Houser was a Co-founder of Given Goods. She switched out of the well-trodden strategy consulting path to start a philanthropic online marketplace that touches people around the world and is a proud member of the Techstars mafia.

Ryan Orbuch is a Founder at Basil and the Designer of Finish (Apple Design Award 2013). By designing the #1 bestselling productivity app on the App Store when he was 16, he’s living proof that the 21st Century definition of “work” is changing fast. He’s been featured in The New York Times, TEDxTEEN, SXSW, and he graduated in June from Boulder High School.

The list could go on. Matthew Inman and Hugh MacLeod are reimagining what being an artist means by striking out on their own. Hugh Howey and James Altucher are doing the same for authors. Jodi Ettenberg quit her job as a corporate lawyer to travel the world and is now a top blogger. Michelle Miller left JP Morgan to develop and produce The UnderwritingAttorneys, designers, programmers, copywriters, and professional service providers of all kinds are going freelance. Tim Ferriss and Dan Pink are changing our notions of work with books like The 4-Hour Workweek and Drive that examine the science of motivation and the mechanics of millennial career ambition. Project-based, autonomous, purpose-driven collaboration is becoming the norm.

Businesses are embracing Results-Only Work Environments, unlimited vacation policies, and remote working. Companies that don’t are finding it harder and harder to attract and retain talent. People like Dilbert but they don’t want to work at his office if they can avoid it. More and more folks are seeking and finding lucrative alternatives and doing remarkable things. You can too. At the end of the day, life is a Results-Only Work Environment.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’ll be interviewing Eric, Jessica, Cammy, and Ryan at the upcoming Startup & Tech Mixer on August 8th in San Francisco. I’ll have some books on hand to sign too. It fills up fast and once the tickets are gone, they’re gone. So register here today.