Andy Trattner

October 9, 2021


I'm in a liminal phase, between my anniversary of leaving tech work last September and moving to Ecuador last November. I'm contemplating what form my future funemployment will take.

Ideally, I'd like to have more creative output. Pragmatically, I'd like to have more customers.

The biggest thing holding me back has been my land. Although it's livable now, the property remains an expensive and exhausting endeavor. I can finally see the risk-reward balance tilting clearly in the "time to move on" direction.

Owning land has been a huge part of my Ecuador experience. I've dabbled in writing and other projects, along with more than a healthy dose of socializing and whimsy, but the property has legally and metaphysically defined my Ecuadorian identity.

The next big step forward will be owning a business. Like the land, it starts with money, then requires a lot of building and doing. Hopefully this time with a slightly more positive, sustainable outcome.

In the past few years, I've seen a lot of job descriptions include "ownership" as a requirement. I like this framing because it sets people up to take responsibility and act conscientiously.

Owners need to take initiative, to exert themselves emotionally, to invest mind and body and bank account. Our post-industrial economy demands creative, autonomous individuals at all levels of the org chart.

But at the same time, ownership in the job description is a bit oxymoronic. Fundamentally, companies purchase the labor of their employees. The company, not the individual, owns the output of that labor. Inequality continues to grow as the owners of companies reap winner-take-all rewards.

That said, over the last year, I've developed a deeper appreciation for the work that ownership entails. It's not all exploitation and lazy, demanding, entitled bosses. Ideally, it's bonafide, gritty, diligent leadership. And a lot of higher-leverage elbow grease.

Many people fail to take advantage of the opportunities they have to step up and own their labor's fruits. Often, all it takes is a tiny bit extra to shift one's mindset and take greater responsibility. Responsibility is grounded in principles, which require action to live out, i.e. taking initiative.

To email that expert and learn something new. To apply for that bank loan. To spend the afternoon building something that someone else can use, or at least trying. Get inspired by reading Linchpin or more compactly, Graceful.

Most people work in order to live. They get resources through labor and spend those resources to put food on the table. And beer...Netflix...

What does it mean to flip this sequence on its head?

I am so, so fortunate to have the resources, life experience, and wherewithal to own things, from end-to-end. It is a real privilege to have my basic needs met, and more, so that I can invest in meaningful pursuits of my choosing.

Starting from the top of Maslow's pyramid, I—and perhaps you too—can live in order to work. I can find ways to self-actualize by owning passion projects, and in addition to serving others, these can perhaps turn some profit to put food on my table.

This is the artist's journey, what it means to turn pro, and do à la Seth: "Work that matters for people who care."

About Andy Trattner