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Economic Philosophy

Chris Burbridge 0:00

Internet as mass-conentrator or mass-scaler. Venture capital as force that pushes for mass-conenctration, and its harms. Starting to talk about the problems of fixation on this, on a personal level.

When you leave the mass, indoctrination, the mass indoctrination is massive scale. Right? massive indoctrination is. I have to be a billionaire, or 100 millionaire otherwise or 10 millionaire, and otherwise, I am not happy or successful.

And there’s many aspects of it. But that’s one aspect of it, is like your personal dream of how much money you’re going to make before you feel successful, or before the company feels successful, and considers it to be a win. But this is such a problem. This encourages mass scale.

And of course, the internet is capable of creating that more than any other thing in history. And this is the thing that venture capitalists want. But I think it’s very destructive Then you create monopolies, like Amazon, Apple, etc. But it’s actually very interesting, that that same platform, the internet, that’s capable more than anything else in history, of collecting power in one place, is also the same platform that is more capable than any other thing in history of creating tiny, niche-specific businesses or communities. That would be impossible in the past, to the same degree.

And it’s possible of creating many, many, many, many, many, many, multi $100,000 a year businesses, for individuals that create several jobs, a satisfying lifestyle, increasing community diversity, and this is what I’ve been interested in for several years. One person I was talking to about it, likened it to the difference between solar power and nuclear power. With solar power, everybody can have their own local source, whatever they want. And with nuclear power, it’s a lot of state control, massive scale, massive investment, and no human individual can do it. And it’s all controlled centrally.

So it’s the same thing that I’m always thinking about, like, instead of inventing a business model that you control, essentially, you invent business models that are open-sourced ideas that you distribute all over the world, so people can adapt them anywhere, and use them however they want to.

So it’s interesting to think at the same platform that makes it more possible to collect power in one place, is also the platform that can let you have this mass-diversification power.

Helen Shi 3:47
Isn’t there one, or at least multiple? A lot of companies are like that are like, what,

Chris Burbridge 3:55
what they’re like, yes, there’s a lot of companies like both examples.

But I guess my point here was that when you leave the idea that success equals domination, either economically, or emotionally, or any other way… socially… you’re liberated into an incredible new world of possibilities.

Helen Shi 4:36

I was just reading about this old money, new money thing. That’s the way new money thinks. They have a big boss and they become very big, a big, big, big, huge and then they were defeated. It’s kind of become huge is a pre-indicator to be divided.

Chris Burbridge 5:12

Mass-scaling creates a set of effects for investors and a tiny set of employees which generate massive returns. Beyond the 100x returns, effects include massive economic imbalancing, geographic imbalancing, and you could say, a totally unnecessary distribution of large sums of wealth to people who don’t necessarily need it, and reduction to people who do.

But mass-diversification creates a very different set of effects. These include a widening of options for larger numbers of people, increase in satisfaction, variety, as well as the resilience effects that happen by creating a “biodiversity” economically, and the strength of local actors, both in terms of the greater resilience of locally-autonomous systems, as well as their ability to adapt to local conditions, rather than adopt a “cookie-cutter” approach.

So there’s interest, okay. So, for example, venture capital is very interested at the effects of scale, their effect, they’re very venture capitals very interested at the effects that happen at large scale at huge scale. Because that can give them this unbelievable leverage, like 10x or 100x. Returns which they demand. So almost all venture capitalists are interested pretty much only online businesses now.

But this has certain effects like that, but, but if you let go of all of that, and you look at the different scale, the scale of we can call it the micro-success business or whatever, then there’s anothter set of effects that kick in that are completely different Because there’s virtually an infinite number of little markets, that at that micro scale are possible, that are incredibly interesting and unique. There’s so many different markets that are possible, if you need to just have enough fans to have a good life for you and your family, that you can have the weirdest, most interesting, different business, and if you make the right connections with the right people could be anywhere on Earth, you have a good life.

So it’s a completely different set of effects. So, if you let go of the idea of mega-success [which can easily be seen as a vestige of the pre-internet era, where everyone needed to watch the same TV shows, listen to the same radio, etc., and there were only a few games in town], you can look at a completely different set of of effects that happen at this micro-scale, that would be irrelevant at the macro scale. Like, you know, the macro scale demands, constant concentration; a siphoning off of as much power as possible to the one central place where the venture capital can eat it. Right?

The micro scale has completely different set of effects. It’s  liberating to people, actually, it’s incredibly liberating.

Key criteria for my thinking include:

  • The ability to break apart systems to analyze parts that are working, versus parts that are not (examples: the university system, the job system, the market system), to give us (a) a clear perspective on what is actually valuable and useful now, collectively, and (b) a clear perspective on what you, as an individual, want to get out of these things
  • Thus, the ability to give the largest number of people possible the ability to create lives they choose, that they enjoy, and that also provide value for others; this implying the idea of flexibility, the idea of potential choice, and the ability of actual choice —
  • That is, first when you collectively take the time to see which parts of a process you want to keep, and which ones you want to get rid of, you now have the ability to see what the options are, on a personal level
  • But also, at a societal level you are able to construct things to enable people to “mix and match” to their heart’s desire, as much as possible
  • Examples of this include type of work of course, but also: how you work with others (or don’t); working hours, days, etc.; working styles, methods, and focus areas, and many other possible parameters

Right now we have a broken system, because people are (mostly) still operating as though there were, like, half a dozen possible work options. When I was a kid there were a handful of types of bread or catsup in the supermarket, and now there are dozens and dozens of types of bread and catsup. But somehow we have not done this with the far more important component of how we spend our time, how we are useful to one another, how we share our work and our best talents and abilities.

And the big difference between the macro scale and the macro scale, is if people have a fantasy of, of needing $100 million to be happy, versus they need a million dollars, or whatever. And so if you realize that the the delta between what you actually need to be happy and have a good life, and the mega-fantasy scale is all relevant. In other words, there’s no way to like once you have the million dollars or whatever it is that you need, to effectively spend the rest of it anyway. All the extra is kind of irrelevant to your happiness. Right?

I guess my whole point when I talk about the delta is like, people think they want to be successful. Of course, they want to be successful, I want to have freedom, of course, they want to have freedom. I want to have creative control, of course, you want to have creative control, I want to have the ability to have a little house in Costa Rica or see friends or make a party or do whatever. I want to be recognized. Of course, you want those things. All those things are equally possible. Model number two, it really, the only difference is you know, you’re not famous for everybody in the world like Elon Musk, you’re famous to the people that matter to you.

Helen Shi

He’s not happy.

Chris Burbridge

One of the core tenants of my of my stuff is  to create a more conscious system to evaluate what your success actually looks like. Because a lot of people are blindly, it’s unconscious, that they think the number in the bank account equals success. So it’s takes more work to actually look well.

I began to think about this in a religious context, and this would be an incredibly interesting project for an anthropology grad student, or a radically-minded divinity student, etc. Look at the cult of wealth as just our culture’s primary myth of transcendence. That is, compare it to say a group in Borneo, and like a religious group in the Middle Ages, or whatever. And I believe you would see a lot of parallels — look what happens: The 100x returns and $100M IPO is a modern equivalent of the promise of salvation or transcendence in many religions. It’s not just an improvement of your day-to-day state, no. It’s about the transcendence of your day-to-day state, where all will be well, and you will have no troubles at all. Isn’t that the fantasy, somehow? You will have ascended. Except that in a modern context it’s money that will do it for you, instead of God’s (or gods’) influence. And one of the core attributes here is that once you believe in the promise, you don’t really need to inspect the mythology, to see whether it seems relevant, doable, etc. That just becomes a form of not believing enough. All will be well once you have transcended, so just keep pushing.

What do you want to you want to have in your life? What do you want your day to look like? What do you want your family to look like? How do you want your time to be? That takes more work than get a much more holistic sense of what you really want your makeup to be. So that’s one of the first steps I do and all of my work is to encouage people to start thinking about those things.

Helen Shi

Make sure you start from kindergarten

Chris Burbridge

Well, that would be wonderful.

Helen Shi 14:19

I’m not I’m not sure. I’m not saying you should start with kindergarten kids. Oh, but very basic. Yeah, start very basic. What I just had a talk with another friend of mine, and we were chatting about he was talking about options things blah, blah, blah, like all fancy technique of option trading. And okay, I said, I’m high school level. I am doing security license and I know pretty much a lot of investment vehicles. But I said okay, this is a graduate school level. I said, Okay, most people are just kindergarten level.

Chris Burbridge 15:12

Yes. I think the videos, I started making our kindergarten level, right, like, start with someone who has a dream in their business, and then they end up finding they have to do all this boring work. But how could they do more of the dream work they want to do, and just giving them tips, and it’s gradually gradually moving them towards the dream work?

And then when people open up new possibilities, it revolutionizes everything. When Tim Ferriss wrote his book, Four Hour Workweek, it blew everyone’s mind open, even though now it seems kind of a baseline for a lot of people

Helen Shi 16:29

Make sure you’re as grounded as their current reality, because it’s totally harder for Chinese people now in China to like, they have 996. And their bosses just like, oh, you wouldn’t have any job and people have a crisis. And they’re 35, because no company will train you from new if you’re 35. So either you stay and compete for middle level management position, or you get to this bands, and then they were kind of doing all this Uber style jobs. And then it’s like, you have aging parents and middle aged kids some kind of squeeze in the middle. It’s a disaster. So yeah, then you’re talking about per diem.

Chris Burbridge 17:28

I don’t know how, I mean, if you were, if you were in China, I don’t even know how you would do these things,

Helen Shi 17:38

I don’t know. But things are not. It’s slightly better, but it’s not significantly better here. People are still paycheck to paycheck. Most people.

People don’t appear as worrisome. But in reality, the stats shows people do not have that much savings. So they might face like the lady I mentioned to you, she’s from a wealthy family. And she still have this panic attack from insecurity of not enough savings. Now, no job, then she completely collapse because of that. You don’t believe that?

Chris Burbridge 18:36

It’s not that it’s not that just approaching from a different lens. I’m not disagreeing with anything you’re saying. So it’s like, the potentials that I’m talking about are, are realistic for a lot of people to work on. So that’s the point, not that everything is perfect now or everybody’s in a rosy position. But that these potentials exist and are very nascent, very possible for many, many people to improve things, and how this all ends up, who knows? Because it’s impossible to guess, right? But if you unleash the power of loving your life, if you unleash the power of having more fun, if you unleash the power of people feeling more free, and if you unleash the power of people being more happy and less stuck in jobs they hate… so if you unleash all this power, I have faith, some good things will come out of it. But of course, I can’t predict exactly how it will go.

Helen Shi

So what I’m talking about is that for kindergarten level people, if you don’t give them stepping stones, and even very shallow stepping stones, they cannot draw them and they wouldn’t believe in you. Like your dream is really far away. And they were just stuck in their reality. Because stepping stones are very low.

Chris Burbridge

We have a series of five videos that I’m making now as first videos, it’s just like a little story about a gardener business. And there are four other stories. But the first one is about the gardener and what advice we will give her. And first step, she has five steps. One step is take a walk, we know you’re very busy, but even Saturday morning, still to two hours, one hour, take a walk. And imagine, remember why you started the business and what your dreams were, and what your biggest vision is. And just note that down and, and your values and just think about it. That’s step one, because it starts to stir up the vision again, and not getting lost in your in your in your rat race.

Step two, look at your feedback, what your customers love most about you. Because we’re often pushed to do things that are generic But actually, it turns out, there’s more potential from the special thing that we do is maybe more valuable. Then you’ll see what do you love? What do you get most excited? But also, where do the customer get most excited as well? Where do you both get most excited? In your work? Where are you not generic? Where are you something different?

Helen Shi 22:54

Can you elaborate are more like we be generate generic when we’re fear? Yeah. Why is that?

Chris Burbridge 23:05

So she has a business. She has 12 employees. She’s been successful in the sense of in 12 years, she followed all the steps that were recommended to her. And she grows and grows but actually like a lot of small business. She’s actually not making all the money. She has a lot of paycheck. Low margins, right. Mostly low margin.

So she’s running, running, running, running  but not really building anything very much right. And she’s constantly in demand for doing this like you, “will you do my maintenance?” So then the really good stuff that she’s excellent at is building special gardens, fantasy spaces; they get paid much more money, much more artistic, much more special. And that’s where she actually has much higher margins. This is her passion.

So she loves this, and her customers who get this, they love it too. But she’s buried in doing everything everyone asks, so she’s not even able to take a step back. And look how much lower margin she gets for this generic work anybody can do. Right?

Andshe’s terrified because two thirds of her work, she would lose if she said I’m only doing the special stuff. And though the higher margins on the special staff and much more fun and much more positive feedback loop if you doing only the special stuff. word spreads more quickly. Yeah, fine, you get better at it faster, etc. There’s a lot of business logic to it.

Helen Shi 24:51

Cool. Yeah, sure. Wow. Okay, Chris. I can see how we can play collaboratively in a team. I think my specialty is: Are people streamlined Or just doing the generic part? Yeah. And she can apply the 8020 rule. Maybe she still allocate 80% of her resources and right. But her attention can be 80% attention in the new part.

Chris Burbridge 25:23

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s an observation. Also, she feels an obligation to her employees. This is something she needs to revisit, because it’s not necessarily her job to keep them employed. You know, I mean, right. I know very, not very good.

Helen Shi 25:43

Oh, this is another, I observe a lot of successful women. If you’re an alpha female, then feel shy to let people go. To ask for more. And as negotiator, my friend who does the Airbnb thing? And it’s like, yeah, these she helped. She helped people in her house and the agreement was that you stay in the house and help with the Airbnb, right? And something didn’t play out. So you don’t have to enjoy this for free that, you have to pay. Right. Right. Yeah. pretty clear. Right? But she doesn’t want to charge them, and doesn’t want to kick them out.

Chris Burbridge 26:31

Yeah. And the thing is, nobody is really happy. They’re not so happy and is well, that workers aren’t so happy necessarily. What she needs is maybe a smaller team, more specialized experts, helpers, and having a specialized business.

Helen Shi

Why did that happen?

Chris Burbridge

Okay, number one thing is, she went to landscape design certificate school for a two-year certificate, and they had in the whole program, they had one day of business training, only one day, which is very typical. Massage school, chiropractic school. Probably even dental school, whatever they give you maybe one day or one afternoon of marketing and business training. So they have this strange assumption that we’re going to teach you the skill, but we’re not going to help you build the business around this skill. So even though her dream from childhood was to build these magical garden spaces; this is even why she started landscape school; but then, they didn’t tell her how to build that business. They didn’t say, okay, great: So you have this skill. Now, here’s how you build a unique business around this skill to market specific thing and tell us a great story, and get very excited about this specific thing. No, nobody ever told her how to do that. They told her how to do a generic landscaping business because that’s the formula everyone following. That’s the formula.

It’s like when he’s talking the other day about immigrants come, and they follow the formula. Nail business, a lot are Vietnamese immigrants. Yeah, just follow the formula. It’s like that with a lot of businesses actually. So then they didn’t have nobody showed her how to build that. So before she knew that she was almost such a hard worker. And such a diligent worker that she created a generic business 12 years later.

Helen Shi 28:45

But most America is very generic. Like chains store, almost the same anywhere in America. Everything is the same. Maybe that’s how things are operated here. On may sound like not many cities can afford boutique stores anymore. Did you feel that?

Chris Burbridge 29:11

Well, that’s a touchy question.

Helen Shi

I mean, were there more when you growing up there now?

Chris Burbridge

No, no, no, no, it’s less, less less. Yeah, there was less giant stores, but there was also less boutique stores.

But I can’t again, this is a thing that I can’t, I can’t know. It’s like, if you encourage people to have a specialized business, I know that you can help them get more of what they want. Money and satisfaction. Kow this plays out in the entire economy, that’s beyond my knowing, right?

But I think I could go to Bend Oregon, or I could go to… a city in Indiana, and I could still help somebody to do this.

Helen Shi 32:13

But if you gain financial independence, then you don’t have to do any work for money. But you do work for your purpose.

Chris Burbridge 32:21

Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s a great thing. I love that. It’s just that the focus I have right now is more around people getting paid well, to do their purpose. So the focus I have happens to be merging the two. I mean, it’s been a reason my focus is on blending the two is because that’s my personality. Some people would be happy to say work for XYZ company, they don’t care about and make some money, and then they get the money and do that purpose. But I don’t like that. So I’m always thinking, “how can I do both at the same time”? That’s just my personality, some people might be fine to do the thing they don’t like, in order to do the thing they do want to do, but that’s not what I am interested in.

I think there’s something secretly powerful about encouraging people to do what the love, and learn how to be valuable and useful in the process, and I want to help them show them that simple kindergarten methods to do it.

Guru “success” teachers and the shadow side

Because the shadow side of all this conversations is all the BS that people spout — bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, they try to get people so excited about these promises, that it’s bullshit. Yeah, too simple, too obvious. And it’s like, everyone get everyone to do the same thing like, here, you just follow this simple formula to sell the things on Amazon blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you have another boring, stupid business and with 1,000s of people trying to do the same boring, dumb thing. It’s dumb.

Helen Shi 35:26

So how come to try not is how we grow up? Only one thing, just like follow the structure. Now, you don’t have to think,

Chris Burbridge 35:38

Very appealing. That’s one of the things we’re working against is in our company as to it’s a requires, again, requires more thought.

Helen Shi 35:47

So how do you find the people when they bend down to this generic form? What what gives them the courage to jump out?

Chris Burbridge 36:01

Now, as often lots of people that are struggling, miserable, and trying to move for different reasons, all kinds of reasons, wanting to become more alive; then they wanted to become a coach, they want to stay at home with their child, so they want to sell something online, or whatever, to create that financial freedom. And the number of people that want to do that, versus people are succeeding to do that is, you know, huge difference. But that’s the gap.

Helen Shi 36:41

That’s people already there’s millions of people trying to figure it out, trying to figure out but then you said this, like they might fall into some generic coaching system.

Chris Burbridge 36:48

Yeah. And the danger with that, that really bothers me, is that all those systems use hope to get people to buy in. Yeah, a lot of those systems are bullshit, in some level. I mean, they’re not like trying to trick somebody, they’re genuine. But they’re still trying to be at scale to like, get everyone to use more or less of a formula, and it’s still more from the outside, not from inside of you what uniquely you want to do.

And so they inspire people, and then so many of those students can have massive disappointment. So if you run this online class, let’s just say you charge $1,000 for your program, and you have 100 students, then you will make $100,000. And let’s say 5% of people have some success. So then, you get five excited testimonials, saying “I was so poor and broke and now I’m making $120,000 a year making, $300,000 a year, thanks to Chris’s program.” Now you have five exciting testimonials, right? Even though you only had, in this case a 5% success rate.

Do that three more times. Now you have 15 exciting testimonials to everybody in the world. You are amazing. “Wow. 15 people! He must know what he’s doing, I think I’ll sign up.” And I know people who have paid $10,000, $20,000 for these types of programs. In one case it felt like a total loss for this person, who was entirely inexperience. In another, they saw some value to it, but to be honest, if they had to do it over again, they wouldn’t have done the program, I don’t think. Now, you don’t sign up for a program for $20,000 because “you want to learn a few new things”. You sign up for it on the following hope: “This is it. I have finally found the vehicle that will catapult me to success.” But this has not happened, very often.


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