Look online. Turn on Netflix. Follow politics. Read a blog. Browse through Amazon. What do you see? Angry tweets? Funny memes? Fake news? Cheap goods? You wouldn’t be wrong. But take all these together, and I see something equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.
I see disruption.
Massive disruption is taking place, affecting everything from media to politics to technology to economics, intertwining into a chaotic cascade of cause and effect. Everything about the way things used to be is under assault.
President Trump is changing (some would argue, assaulting) our understanding of what political leadership looks like. YouTube and Netflix are revolutionizing the way media is consumed. Amazon is refashioning the retail industry. Bitcoin is redefining finance and currency. Independent blogs are undercutting much of the profitability and, yes, the credibility of legacy news outlets.
For those who partook in the glory of the last era, this is a terrifying ordeal. Everything they hold dear is getting obliterated in real time.
We have exited that last era and are moving into whatever comes next. I like the image of twilight to convey this moment – that strange time when light runs into shadow, causing reality itself to soften into vague, ambiguous shapes. Boundaries are uncertain. Outlines blur. Illusions abound.
Nothing is clear.
For those of us deprived of -or, rather, by– the “glory” of the last era, this is a golden opportunity to insert ourselves into the fissures of the increasingly strained social construct we call society, putting stress on the most effective pressure points, until the entire edifice shatters into a million pieces.
Disruption will continue to take place. And there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it.
Disruption is Inevitable
Readers of the incredibly prescient book, ‘The Fourth Turning’, will understand what I’m saying here. As sure as 11:59pm tick-tocks into midnight, so will the next age follow the one we just left. We’re simply negotiating the transition now.
Despite the inevitability of this cosmic mechanism, I believe there’s a lot we can do to take advantage of all this disruption, steering it towards a constructive vision for the next iteration of society. Destiny-struck dreamers like myself may argue that this is why disruption exists: to give those who are last a chance to be first – if they’re worthy. A test of the ages, by the ages.
What’s at stake are only the freedoms we want our children to cherish. Freedoms that are restricted more with each passing day by the straining edifice we seek to shatter. But if we fail…
There are those whose vision for the next phase of our civilization is diametrically opposed to the vision that built Western culture in the first place. They have, to their credit, gained massive institutional power over the last 60 years, primarily through subversion (their strategies have been overwhelmingly effective, and we will glean from their methods and achievements on this blog). And yes, while they bear the burden of institutional power, they are continually seeking to upgrade. We don’t face an idle opponent.
Much has been said on this topic, and most of my readers will already be familiar with the defining struggle of our age: freedom versus tyranny. I won’t get into that here.
At this fleeting moment between moments, the future is yet undecided, like a quantum probability wave. Whose gaze will collapse it into a definite trajectory? Who gets to cast the die of the society our children will grow up in?
Will it be you and I, or those who want us imprisoned, killed and forgotten?
Disruption is a Force Multiplier
Again, disruption must take place. There’s no stopping it. Our only burden is to steer it as best we can, all the while fighting a leviathan of monumental power: financial, political and, most importantly, cultural.
The main thrust of this article, which I hope will inspire many of you to take meaningful action in the cultural sphere, is that disruption is a force multiplier.
In times of disruption, wielding institutional power can be a huge liability. Cumbersome and beset by bureaucracy and a surfeit of abstract “rules” (which they established to maintain supremacy in the last era), they are often sluggish in responding to a nimble, unfettered and particularly decentralized opposition.
On the other side of the disruptive coin, normally inconsequential and forgotten segments of the population can have an enormous influence – even surpassing that of establishment actors. One need only look at the advent of YouTube stars, some of whom are bigger celebrities than Hollywood A-listers.
Anyone, regardless of economic status (mostly), living anywhere with access to internet, can become a mega-star. I don’t need to list examples – which proves my point. This new era of disruption rewards the following three qualities:
• Mindset – belief in self, audacity
• Hustle – work ethic, willingness to learn required skills, networking
• Creativity – the magic
Developing these three qualities will allow you to leverage disruption.
No wonder the mindset-focused corner of the internet has witnessed a massive boom in popularity recently. That’s where it all begins. People are beginning to notice the bounty of opportunity available to them; opportunities they would have been denied in the last era. As a result, they’ve begun improving themselves, making themselves worthy of attention.
I won’t get into the obvious double-edged nature of that motivation. Suffice to say that, if you want to have a positive influence, you first need to be worth looking up to. Hard to do if you’re a loser.
Simple – if you want to further your beliefs using the power of story and art in the culture, you will need to work HARD. You must, at some point, rise above your competition in terms of quality and surface gloss. Some of this can be mitigated by the power of your message, but you cannot forsake quality of craft.
You do this by sucking at first.
Nobody rolls out of bed, decides to make films, and immediately rivals Kubrick’s technical artistry. Every film school student thinks they’re special this way, until they make their first film.
ART – a significant portion of which is CRAFT – is synonymous with SUFFERING. Get this in your head from now, so you know the battle you’re about to venture into. Nobody creates art without suffering. Nobody.
So, suck it up, and go suck. Endure the embarrassment and frustration with self. Put your crap out there. Let the mockery and criticisms cut into you. The sooner, the better. Don’t let fear of sucking hamstring your ambitions.
Not only will it shape your art, it will further hone your mindset as well. It all works together. And I haven’t even touched the suffering of life itself, which warrants its own dedicated article.
Secondly, your work is useless without an administrative system to back it up. With this, I mean acquiring basic skills like web and graphic design to promote your work and your brand, a functional understanding of accounting to run your business, and things like that. Sure, you can hire or barter with people to help you out, but trust me, more often than not you’ll be on your own – until you start gaining in popularity and influence.
In the last era, studios and labels would find and develop talent and do all the pesky administrative stuff for them. Not today. Today, you are the studio. This means more work, but also more freedom.
This is the disruption-rewarded quality I’ll be focusing on in my writing going forward. I’ll touch on mindset and hustle now and then, but there are other, more accomplished influencers I’d rather point you to; people I’m learning from everyday.
However, creativity is like a woman’s eggs, which are instilled in her from birth. You have to be the proper age before it becomes useful, and growing up in this context means developing your mindset and work. Without these, you are not ready to harness and unleash your creativity.
But Creativity, which is only possible when your craft can meet its challenge, which in turn cannot blossom without proper mindset… that’s the bottled lightning, the rarified air, the gestalt, the alchemy, the godly act of manifesting the invisible that, all else being equal, fertilizes your work to such an extent that its fruit, both financial and cultural, will be enjoyed far beyond the limits of your mortal life.
The question is: will you use it for good, or for evil? For beauty, or horror? For creation, or destruction? It’s the most powerful human gift, and we mirror our Creator when we express it.
These three qualities – mindset, labor, and creativity – are continually reinforcing one another. They are also disproportionately rewarded in times of disruption.
Developing and using them with the fire of boldness is how you leverage disruption.
Disruption always starts off with inferior quality
We’re on the cusp of peak disruption. Maybe we’re already in it. Hard to tell when you’re in the middle of the maelstrom.
Looking back, it’s clear that the disruption we’re now experiencing had its start in the sphere of technology, namely with the advent of the internet.
Using this adolescent technology called the internet, a company called YouTube built an outlet for average people to share their crappy home videos. It was a curious oddity. You could see, in low resolution, painfully boring videos of people’s extremely bland lives.
But quality doesn’t matter when disruption takes off – it always improves over time. Actually, the fact that disruption begins with low, mock-worthy quality is a feature, not a bug. It’s like a reverse Trojan horse.
Dismiss it at your own risk.
Remember 360p? Now it’s 4K. Remember those home videos? Now they’re full blown productions, ranging from shorts to features, mini doc-series to seasons of scripted narratives. New forms of storytelling are beginning to emerge, incorporating user interaction.
And it’s not just internet technology that’s responsible for this revolution. Digital cameras used to be vastly inferior to celluloid film. Envelope-pushers like David Lynch and Lars von Trier experimented with this inferior format, delivering films that looked like America’s Funniest Home Videos. Not long after that, though, the RED digital camera system hit the market, proving that ones and zeroes could, in fact, compete with silver halides on quality.
But the real bomb of disruption in the digital camera sphere exploded when Canon’s 5D mark 2 hit store shelves. With 30 fps full HD video capabilities, customers could suddenly shoot film-like video, using interchangeable DSLR lenses, for a ridiculously tiny fraction of the price of film. It was a clear watershed moment. The rest, as they say, is history.
Remember when “YouTube video” was a pejorative term, usually squeezed through the pursed lips of some entitled Hollywood insider, still wet from overpriced champagne? Now, people are making million of dollars off of the platform with high quality content, shaping the worldview of a generation. And it all happened so suddenly.
How will you take advantage of the power disruption offers you? Will your message – your story – float on its wings? Or will it crash on the faint hope of establishment approval and empty accolades?
You no longer need the backing of a studio to make it big. With all this disruptive technology, more and more power is being deposited into a single filmmaker’s hands – provided he has developed his mindset and grown his skill stack.
And please note: this applies to every artist in pretty much every discipline, because disruption is all around us.
Today, disruption is ubiquitous. What started in humble fashion with the Internet is now visible everywhere. Is this peak disruption? Is this the moment of optimal leverage?
I don’t need to tell you about Twitter and other social platforms, and the ability to engage with the previously untouchable priest-class, otherwise known as celebrities. This has led to the increasingly apparent destruction of their glamor, and the disillusionment of their fans. The parameters of public discourse have irreversibly changed. Longing for a return to how it used to be is a certain path to failure.
Politics is experiencing major disruption globally. I don’t need to tell you about Trump and the populist revolution, neither of which would have been possible without social media.
There are more self-published authors than ever before. I don’t need to tell you about the social media platforms the hustlers who believe in themselves are leveraging to sell their books and, more importantly, get their story out.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Disruptive technology tends to favor those who can only gain power through disruption. Does this include you? Are you ready to leverage it?
Recognizing patterns is key in getting ahead of the curve. Disruption is like an asteroid impact in slow motion, initially penetrating the surface, but soon busting through every layer of a carefully constructed society. If it’s apparent in one layer, you can infer that it’s ready (or almost ready) to be exploited in another. Where will it hit next?
For example, consider the pushback against all this disruption: censorship. In many ways, digital censorship is but a Hail Mary pass thrown by the elite to preserve their dissipating leverage in an increasingly disrupted society. But don’t rest easy just yet – sometimes a Hail Mary pass scores the winning touchdown. So stay vigilant.
How will blockchain, the (still) emerging technology underlying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, play into this tug of war? Can it disrupt content distribution, the final chokehold the last era’s elite still has in their grasp? These are ideas I want to explore on this blog, and I hope you will contribute. After all, disruption favors decentralization, and it will take all of us if we want to steer it in a way that will benefit our children.
Because of massive disruption affecting all of society, you will never again in your life have an opportunity like right now to make a meaningful impact with relatively little resources. So what are you waiting for?
This introduction to disruption is probably the longest post I will write on here. If you held strong until this point, thank you. I’m still gaining clarity on this topic. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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