Sunday, December 18, 2016

Learning the Five Leverages

As a young man, I decided that if I were to make a difference in the world, and I don't mean a small difference, but put a real dent in the world in some positive way, then I'd need leverage. The world is too big and its momentum too strong for one person to create much lasting change without leverage.

I also realized that five kinds of leverage have much more power than any other in today's world: communication, technology, entrepreneurship, capital, and politics.

Ignoring the latter, since I don't have the stomach for politics, I decided to master the other four forms of leverage and ultimately find ways to combine them and put them to use. 

I began acquiring the leverage of communication by learning to write and speak effectively. The mastery of both is a lifelong endeavor. This blog is part of that process. Teaching is another kind of leverage that I categorize within the leverage of communication. I teach a course in entrepreneurship, and I coach, mentor, and consult for many small business clients. I'm not a great teacher yet, but I strive to improve every time I teach.

I then set about learning the leverage of entrepreneurship. I failed, studied, listened, and reflected enough to have progressed no small distance down the path of entrepreneurial mastery, though I certainly have plenty left to learn. Marketing is a secondary form of leverage that lives at the intersection of entrepreneurship, communication, and technology. Getting the message out is a powerful form of leverage in its own right.

I learned about the leverage of capital by learning finance. Several of my entrepreneurial endeavors were finance companies. Lacking substantial capital myself thus far, I at least learned what I could about how the leverage of capital works.

I'm now 40, and I've finally begun to learn the leverage of technology beyond my history of flirting with it but never fully diving in. By growing my technical expertise, I will no longer need to wait for others to join my team in order to turn my ideas into reality. I will no longer need to wait until I have enough money to pay others to build things for me. I will no longer need others to amplify my voice.

What technology am I learning first? Computer programming, virtual/augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Why? 1. Because learning programming is like learning to read. It's one of the most important skills of the 21st century. 2. VR/AR is fun and will soon transform nearly every aspect of human life, just like the internet, social media, and smart phones did over the past 20 years. Plus, it's really cool. 3. Ditto all that for AI. AI is quickly changing the world and is super cool.

I'm still a tech noob. I'm working on a lot of different projects, perhaps too many, but all the projects are fun for now, and I'll certainly grow in my technical expertise in the coming months. Even if I never become an expert in any specific technological niche -- though I'm not saying I won't -- at very least I'll learn enough to speak the language and understand the general lay of the land. With that foundation, I'll be able to work more closely with the true experts on any future projects. I don't have to be the lever, I just need to be able to wield it effectively.

Interestingly, my various skills, experiences, and interests now talk to each other. For example, I write a column (communication) in VR and eLearning (technology and communication through teaching). I'm writing a book (communication) on Unit Economics (entrepreneurship and capital). I founded (entrepreneurship) a medical equipment leasing company (technology and capital). I was recently hired as partner and CEO (entrepreneurship) of a small tech company (technology) that researches and analyzes healthcare legislation and policy (politics). Guess I'm learning the leverage of politics after all now too.

I'm not entirely sure in what ways I'll use all this leverage in the future, though I do have a few ideas. That's not important though. What's important is that as I continue to master these various forms of leverage, I become more powerful, more capable of impacting the world in positive ways. 

This kind of power isn't power over others, but rather power with others. That is, not only can I wield this leverage, but everyone can. And when everyone does wield it, and when we all decide to do so to create positive change, we can and will create a better world for everyone. That is the mechanism for how we will evolve as a species and as a planet. 

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