Friday, August 11, 2006

The ‘droneMatrix”…. Hmmmmmmm

Richard over at FoxProCatalyst mentioned the term in reference to my last few posts.

I had not heard the term before, and I kind of like it. Although he sort of blended the “Matrix” alien aspect into his definition I was thinking of it in an entirely different context.

There’s a difference between being an employee, and being a contractor, often it’s subtle, on some rare occasions it’s glaringly obvious. Regardless it’s always there.

Having spent the past 25 or so years almost evenly divided between being an employee, self employed and a contractor I’ve got some thoughts of the differences. For those of you who stop in fairly regularly, that I have more than a ‘few’ won’t really be all that much of a surprise.

Most folks are most familiar with being an employee.

When you think about me, or when you comment, there’s often an under current of ‘how do you live with the uncertainty?’ Working everyday, knowing that the gig is temporary, and that you could well be looking for another in a few weeks, or months, is just very foreign to most folks.

My experience is though, that while a “job” tends to make us feel safe, secure and able to relax, that the reality is far from the feelings. My Dad worked for one company for his entire career. He started there in high school, went back after college and worked there until he died. He held various position, but with the same company, for his entire adult working life. I suspect that many of his peers had pretty much the same experience.

How many of you can say the same thing? If you’ve changed companies, was it your choice? Was it something you planned to do, or was the change forced upon you by some change within the company?

If it wasn’t your choice, did you see it coming, or was it pretty much a surprise?

For a lot of folks, let’s take those at Enron, or Worldcom for example… had no clue there was a problem, until the bottom fell out.

Like thousands of other employees they went to work every morning, did their job all day, and returned home each night, feeling safe, and secure. Why? Because they did their job, and felt that as long as they did their job, they’d get to keep their job.

It didn’t quite work out that way though, did it?

They al fell victim to the ‘droneMatrix’, allowing themselves to be blind to any, and everything except doing their job, and letting their good work contribute to their feelings of security.

Now, don’t get me wrong here… I’m not saying I’m immune, quite the opposite, I fall into the same trap. The droneMatrix is a very comfy place. It has to be, the entire country’s economic model is based on it! As a byproduct of feeling so comfortable we buy houses with 30 year mortgages, cars on 60 month payment plans and on and on. If we all were wondering if we had a job tomorrow, I doubt we’d do that, well, at least to the extent we do as a society.

So what about those of us who aren’t ‘employed’… who are self-employed or are contractors?

Most find a balance. We find a zone, within which we have that comfort and the droneMatrix is with us again. I think feeling comfortable is a basic human need. We don’t want to live with uncertainty, we seek ways to allow ourselves to feel like everything is “Ok”, and will continue to be. It’s how we get through the day, day after day.

I’ve fought against the droneMatrix most of my life, seeking change, finding it in new gigs, new careers, starting businesses and so on. Eventually though, I find myself living in the matrix again, and wondering how I got there, yet again.

That’s right, even with what most would consider the uncertainty of contracting, I still manage to find a comfort zone, my own droneMatrix. I strive to get a ‘cushion’ of cash for the down times, attempt to keep our debt levels manageable and convince myself there will always be ‘another gig’.

Even though I don’t have my cash reserve set, and our debt levels are far higher than I’d like, I still manage to convince myself things will be “Ok”.

How do I know that? That I’ve convinced myself of that?

Well, if for no other reason than the fact I didn’t take the gig I’ve been writing about. If I was out of that zone, I would have taken the extra money and just jumped to up my ‘earning power’.

So where are you? Do you live in the droneMatrix? Your own personally contrived comfort zone, convinced things will continue as they have, that next year will be just a little better than the last?

Next… Why the model is collapsing….

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Lorna said...

Bill, I not only changed my job, I changed my location, profession, lifestyle, husband and socks.

Bill said...

Lorna - heh-heh... Been there, done that too.. well I changed a wife not a husband!! I think it feels good, change that is, as long as we get to choose... it's when it's forced on us that it seems to create the most trouble I think.

Greg said...

Hey Buddy!
Been out and about for the last week or has always seemed that the contracting god watched to many Sisyphus sequels though I suspect it is more like the dude with the lantern...looking for an honest client. I believe you call it the Holy Grail though the DaVinci code might be more applicable.

Bill said...

Greg - At times... this whole way of life/working feels a bit like a bad "B" movie... at others, it's flat fun...

I've been thinking lately, that the "Holy Grail", or the "DaVinci Code", or the "Brass Ring" are not so much a destination, a target or an actual item... as they are a representation of "found() = .t."

They are also as transient.

Firehawk said...


I tend to like a secure job, one where I can't just come in and find that the place is evaporating the day after tomorrow. On the other hand, I don't like to take it on faith that everything will always be perfect. I'm really leery of taking on big debt loads that I know I couldn't sustain if anything went wrong. I like to pay things off as fast as possible, even if I have to be less grandiose that I could otherwise be while making the big payments. I guess it's "hope for the best, plan for the worst," thinking. I see so many people pulling down the big bank and spending like they'll always be able to do that. They leave no margin for unforseen circumstances. Suddenly, a few bad turns, and their whole life is heading off the track. I'd rather keep it simple and feel confident that I can weather a few storms without losing everything. I guess, then, that I like the dronematrix booted up in Safe Mode.

Bill said...

Firehawk - I like that! "booted up in safe mode".

I'm pretty much like that myself. I don't know how we'd have ever gotten through the past 4 or 5 years if we had been living like nothing could interrupt the cash flow.

We've racked up some medical bills, but we're getting them piad down, and then we'll concentrate on the 'long term' stuff again.

Sometimes I think how nice it would be to have all new vehicles, new 'everything'... but I just don't want the bills to go with it!!