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Your Turn: The nobility of work

For most of human history, entrepreneurship wasn’t a special skill of a select few. It was a common factor among most people. In the Middle Ages, peasants tied to the land would craft various items at home, including clothing, pottery, and beer to sell in markets to raise cash to buy what they needed.

Today, we’d call that a side hustle. Then, there was no name for it because it was just what you did.

In the middle of the 20th century, as a society, we settled into a certain vision of how a respectable person makes their living. You get a good job, give your boss your best efforts, and, if you’re a good, hard working person, you live a good middle class life. (Your results may vary if you are not white, if you live in a rural community, or if you lack any number of other privileges.)

This “middle class lifestyle,” which was never pervasive, is becoming more and more rare. People who are financially successful more and more often do so with multiple forms of income which may include both jobs and gig work.

Unfortunately, many people still look down on the idea of having a second job or gig. There is an unconscious belief that someone who needs a second income has somehow failed.

Those who do not succumb to this misapprehension are learning to master this new economy. People are doing DoorDash, Uber, and Instacart and earning $20 to $30 per hour and more doing it. I spoke to a woman the other day who told me that she and her husband made $10,000 in one month doing Instacart, setting their own hours and working their own way.

There is much debate about minimum wage and what it should be, but the question that is always in my mind is “Why would someone work for $12 per hour at a job that sets their hours and tells them where, when, and how to work when they could make twice that setting their own hours and working their own way?

I sometimes think about what would happen if a significant portion of the labor force realized that they had the option to download an app and leave their job. Of course, they’d still have to work, but it would completely change the dynamic of the labor market. Minimum wage would be irrelevant because no one would take the $12 job.

If you know you can replace your income with gig work, you no longer fear being fired. You’d take that vacation time. You wouldn’t put up with abusive bosses. You’d know that if you were fired, you could just do something else. Immediately.

The economy has changed. Many of the opportunities that once existed are gone, but in their place very interesting new opportunities have arisen.

The rise of gig opportunities is a huge boon to entrepreneurs. Leaving a job to start a business is less of a risk because the entrepreneur has the ability to do any number of things to make ends meet while the business ramps up. This alone will have a huge impact on our economy.

There is no shame in taking on gig work to make good money. There is no special honor in working white collar jobs. We should celebrate the opportunities in our economy that allow many of us to find our entrepreneurial spirit and take control of our own financial destiny rather than think of gig work as somehow inferior to traditional jobs.

Michael Whitehouse, a member of Groton’s RTM, is a mindset coach who lives in Groton and offers free daily motivational messages at http://MorningMotivation.Fun.

Your Turn is a chance for readers to share stories and commentary. To contribute, email times@theday.com.

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