My world today looks like a snow globe as Mother Nature dumped close to a foot of snow in my backyard. I'm about to go snowshoeing, but first I'd like to enjoy a pour-over and share a story with you.
At one point in my life, I wanted to be the wacky weatherman. I wanted to be that guy on the news that would broadcast live outdoors while the hurricane-force winds battered my face and rain jacket.
I wanted to chase tornadoes and run for shelter when golf ball-sized hail would come crashing down.
However, I gave up that dream. Why? Because I had little agency. Back then, there was no internet, no Youtube, no point-and-shoot uploads -- just big, hulky, and really expensive gear that to broadcast the weather, I'd have to cart with me as I chased Mother Nature. And I grew up... well, not-so-rich.
Unlike the past, however, we have more agency today than at any other time in history. It costs zilch to shout your message to the world.
The hard part is to get people to listen.
Agency, as a quick reminder, refers to one's ability to act in his world. It's the ability to make choices and then act on them, or not act on them, given the influence of one's environment. These include what we are in control of and those we are not: money, the neighborhood you grew up in and one's community (or clout). Not having agency is like being in a straight jacket, literally or figuratively.
Unlike pretty much most of human history, it no longer matters how much money you make or if you grew up with a silver spoon.
My dream of the wacky weatherman didn't last long and probably had more to do with my love for nature and the outdoors (and the movie Twister) than anything else. But, the other day, I realized something. If I truly, deeply, maddeningly, wanted to be the wacky weatherman today, I could. And it wouldn't cost a dime.
All I'd need to do is get outside, hold my smartphone at arm's length and upload it to YouTube. And then work like mad to make it so followers would appreciate.
It only takes ten people to tell ten people who tell ten people and then you have a million followers as an audience.
As Seth Godin pointed in a recent talk, individuals have more agency today than ever before. Simply put, a person doesn't need a mass-media channel or the million dollars to pay for a Super Bowl commercial to get her message out.
Taking Advantage of the Surroundings
Bill Gates, for instance, had tremendous agency. As a maturing teenager, he had access to a supercomputer. He could tinker and toy with a computer while other kids in the world, like me, played with Lincoln Logs (which are truly badass).
What do you have in your surrounding that others do not? This could be your supercomputer.
One vehicle for agency is capital. In other words, capital is the size of one's wallet: money, one's network, person's strengths and weaknesses.
More money has traditionally allowed a person to do more because things cost money. The more one has, the more she can buy: extra assistants, the best equipment, flights, etc. Right?
(Cue soundtrack to this blog post.)
But, and this is a big but, another form of capital is called social capital. Social capital is your network, your community, your tribe -- the people you have around you that you can count on and pull resources from.
In fact, Joshua Klein argues that who you know is more important than what you have!
The Power of Community Trumps the Size of Your Wallet
Maybe you have an urge for change, a dream career in your life that you want deeply and maddeningly. If you want it that badly, there's little excuse today to not make it happen.
Maybe you want to "Reinvent You" as Dorie Clark would put it. Maybe you want to become the wacky weatherman. Awesome. Let's make it happen.
First order of business, strap on a set of snowshoes and join me for a hike. There's little excuse to not make your dream happen.