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The McFuture with Steve Faktor
49 minutes | Nov 11, 2021
How To Conquer The World With Reciprocity
https://youtu.be/M1TF5GThrO8 This is the third in my six-part podcast/newsletter miniseries on friends, allies, and now, reciprocity. Read the full version here, watch it on YouTube with all the graphics, or listen on iTunes or find 'The McFuture' on your favorite podcast app. If weak alliances are replacing even weaker friendships, the key to conquering these weak alliances – to get what you want – is reciprocity. SELFISHNESS We consider those who chase wealth and power selfish narcissists, who’d sacrifice kittens in the back of a pizzeria with Hillary and The Illuminati Lizards (worst do-wop group, ever!). Yet we revere altruists. People who give ‘til it hurts. In life, there are few unconditional givers, especially in positions of power or influence. We see this with countless activist organizations that outlive their mission, then expand scope, exaggerate problems, or conjure new enemies. They fight for resources, relevance, and survival. When survival trumps the cause, it’s selfishness. Climate is a perfect example. A Washington Post survey found those who claim to care about climate change, oppose any taxes needed to pay for it. They’re altruists-in-law. Turns out, altruists need sugar daddies. Without innovation and growth, there’s nothing to redistribute. And sugar daddies need absolution…and tax write-offs. Both are equally ambitious – and selfish. Selfishness makes every exchange transactional. All parties must believe they’ll benefit. That’s obvious in business. Those transactions are tangible. But as our lives become more virtual, exchanges turn intangible. So to attract and motivate allies, we must master the art of Intangible Reciprocity. PROLIFERATION Proliferation makes any kind of reciprocity harder. As we’ve blown past the 150 relationships Dunbar said we can handle, each useless new “friend” is also a threat – to demand a favor, a reply, recommendation, or donation. At the same time, we now have Superman’s hearing, deafened by the digital whimpers of every global struggle, with none of Superman’s power to do anything about it. Then there’s Instagram, mowing us down with hollow-point FOMO. We shouldn’t know 98% of it. It makes us feel powerless and depressed. And amounts to voyeurism and distraction. It’s crippling our capacity to care. But reciprocity demands care. How do you get someone to care about your issue, when they’re under siege, their circuits fried? When everything is surplus, everything is disposable, including you. The 4A’s of Reciprocity When our senses are under siege and problems become psychological, everyone must become a psychologist or sociologist. It’s the only way to attract and motivate allies to get what we want. That’s why everyone’s a marketer, laying tech-enabled mind traps. Most people we want things from are more powerful and desirable than us. Politicians, executives, celebrities, and so on. Or, they might be colleagues who don’t report to us, but stand between our cubicle and…a more luxurious cubicle. Sometimes, it seems like we have little to offer them, but I came up with a formula that can help. 1. Analyze Reciprocity starts by understanding what your prospective allies value. Clues are everywhere. Hobbies: A smattering of skiing photos on the bookshelf or signed guitar on the wall. Priorities and values: What they list first in their Twitter profile. Is it “husband” “mother” or “CEO”? What is their joie de vivre? Personality/identity: Do they ever joke around or always stoic in those YouTube or podcast interviews? Are they bombastic? Braggadocious? Shy? Technical? Detail oriented or big picture? Extroversion: Do they have social media accounts? Do they look like they post themselves? Essentially, all the research a future employer will do on us, is available to us. Use it. Build a profile, just don’t be creepy about it. Don’t start a fanclub or get one of those cork boards with newspaper clippings serial killers use. The second part of analysis is introspection. What do you want from this person? The more specific your ask, the easier it will be to focus their attention. Niches are magnets. Also, how big is your ask? Do you need an hour of time, $10,000, or a fulltime job? The bigger the ask, the more work you must do. If the world only had two people – a builder and a farmer, the farmer would need to supply a lot of carrots, over time, to get that new barn. At the overlap of your needs and theirs, lies your mission. 2. Assimilate The next step is assimilation – inhabiting the style, language, mentality, values, expertise, and interests of a prospective ally. If I’m a writer who wants to attract the attention of Elon Musk, I’d start blogging about space, science and curiosity. That’s exactly how Tim Urban, creator of the popular Wait But Why blog, got an exclusive series of interviews with Elon. Tim spoke his language. Elon listened. Tim Urban, Wait But Why While Tim didn’t set out to meet with Elon, he inhabited a space that would eventually attract him. The same goes for knowing industry’s buzzwords, history, even PowerPoint style (or lack thereof in Jeff Bezos’s case). I saw this firsthand with the startup industry. Everyone who wanted in, went to every event, read every article, inhaled every ego. The goal of assimilation is to become an expert at framing your needs in terms of another’s interests. It’s how Tom Sawyer convinced his friends to paint his fence – by making it look so fun his friends didn’t want to miss out. 3. Accredit When you earn a college degree, a promotion, or your study passes peer review, you get “accredited”. An official bullet-point materializes on your resume. Today, informal accreditation is becoming even more powerful. You can become a top YouTuber, podcaster, writer, musician or entrepreneur by mastering cheap, abundant tools that once required institutional access, snooty gatekeepers and lots of cocaine. We can now self-accredit in fields we couldn’t explain to grandma. And we don’t have to get her high. But self-accreditation takes time. Sometimes, years of thankless, unpaid toil for an uncertain payoff. A large audience, body of work, expertise, or quality app builds awareness and indirect leverage. With perseverance, audiences – and prospective allies – eventually find quality. In Econovation, I wrote that the future is auditioning. That future is here. https://youtu.be/zE8lbaNi_uU?t=31 Tim Urban didn’t do it all with one blog post. He had a body of work, a growing audience. By the time Elon found him, he was accredited in things Elon valued. Elon also likely got Tim’s work forwarded to him by others he respects. Relationships are the best kind of accreditation. Building direct trust with a prospective ally is great, but not always possible. A warm introduction or enthusiastic endorsement from someone they respect can be as good, worth months or years of trust-building. 4. Activate Activation is the tactical manifestation of all your hard work. By the time you’re at this step, you’re an object of desire. And just one win – one ally, one act of reciprocity, can quickly become two, three and more. Wins generate personal momentum and attract other prospective allies. Activation exchanges can be tangible or intangible, positive or negative. Let’s break it down. Tangible Exchanges Tangible exchanges are the most obvious. It’s basically business: exchanging money, goods, services, equipment or property. The same applies to relationships. Want Seth Godin to speak at your conference? Just pay him and he’ll show up, unless it’s something weird or kinky. Even then, offer him more! He might still show up…in that leather duck outfit. I’m kidding. Leather is murder. You might even develop a good working relationship with Seth over time. But it’s still commerce, as are most work-related transactions. I once contacted a guy who changed careers to become a comedian. I was toying with returning to something I started at 13 on a cruise ship talent show and continued into my 20’s, until 9/11. (That story in the next episode.) Without spelling it out, he made it clear he wanted payment. Fair. He doesn’t owe me anything. But knowing what I know now – what’s in this post – I think I might be able to sway him, without cash. That’s the point – as our physical needs shrink, more exchanges will become intangible. They’re far more interesting, but unnervingly infinite, like a girlfriend who’s into Bitcoin and mushrooms. Positive Intangibles Lots of positive intangibles can generate reciprocity. By “positive”, I mean positive to you or your prospective ally, not society. For example, it’s great to help someone feel accepted, but not to the Aryan Brotherhood. Positive intangibles include giving someone access to a trusted audience you’ve built (at the Accredit stage). It’s one reason I’ve been able to attract guests like comedian Jim Jefferies, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Governor Jesse Ventura, and the late Larry King. They want access to the nearly 800K+ professionals and executives who follow me across LinkedIn, newsletter and other social networks. Common causes and affiliations can attract allies. Maybe you share their passion for the environment or gaming or wellness. Or, you went to the same university. It can at least open the door to dialogue. Forty-something year old media personality and wealthy founder of Barstool Sports Dave Portnoy does a podcast with teenage TikTok star Josh Richards. Do they have much in common? Not much more than attraction to the same girls… But Dave recognizes his business relies on his relevance to Gen Z. So there he is, listening to teenagers bicker, like he’s driving a minivan to Thanksgiving with the grandparents. Asking for advice – and making a killer case for ‘why you?’, can work. But it must be done in bite-sized pieces. Youth can cut you much-needed slack, as can demonstrated diligence and progress towards your goal. Successful people help those who help themselves. Of course, aren’t cut out or ready to be mentors, but you’d know that from the Analyze stage. Here’s a clip where I explain who makes for a good or bad mentor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRG5I7xjAsM Maybe the most powerful intangible is acceptance. Anyone who expresses their ideas publicly craves appreciation and validation of their life’s work. Their status and identity depend on it. This is their legacy. Effective appeals must reflect how they see themselves. Non-Binary Intangibles You thought only Gen Z could be non-binary? Au contraire. Some intangibles alternate between positive and negative. Urgency is one. Few things are truly urgent. But empires have been built on falsifying urgency. Companies like Gilt were once valued at billions for running “flash sales” for items that weren’t especially scarce or valuable. In corporate, we called this creating a “Burning Platform” – simulating urgency, without necessity. One common trick is, “Competitor X is doing Y, we better respond with Z!” Be careful deploying urgency. It’s a grenade that can explode in your hands. Righteousness borders on religiosity, but people with a passion for or against something love opportunities to prosthelytize. As we’ve seen over the last six years, this button is easy to press with the right stimulus. Being right isn’t enough. It’s the joy of lording it over others. This is the lifeblood of social media “engagement” and hopefully not foreplay for real blood on a battlefield. I mentioned relationships in the Accredit stage. This is where you use them as leverage…or a weapon. Having a mutual contact whose opinion matters is a tremendous asset. It’s also easy to abuse by asking too much of a mutual connection. It strains both relationships. I’ve seen people casually name-drop for access to people and places. Use with discretion. It’s easy to nuke both relationships after they compare notes. Negative Intangibles Negative intangibles can get dark quickly. At their most innocuous, I’ve witnessed beautiful twenty-something year old women in tight dresses halt conversations among accomplished middle-aged men, whose names you’d know. I don’t begrudge anyone their powers. I’ve got my luscious hair and sparkling personality. We have to use what we’ve got. But used too often or brazenly, beauty can build resentment among peers and other orbiting prospective allies, eventually sabotaging long-term success. Narcissism, vanity and ego are on the rise, as the world runs out of problems and tangible ways to solve them. For those who did their homework in Analyze and Assimilate, this is where it pays off – if you can find that one thing your target is most proud of. Then, press that button. Genuine flattery can get you everywhere, if it’s genuine. I get emails all the time about how much someone loves my podcast and would make a great guest. But if I can instantly tell they’ve never heard it, it’s better not to say nothing than look phony. Shame is a powerful tools – and a lab-made virus. There must’ve been a meeting where everyone decided that shaming people into apologies or unemployment is a great way to fix them and punish their sins, no matter how trivial. In reality, it’s a way to mobilize opposition to the oppressive environment this creates. Shame works best as a collective action, like stopping a corporation from polluting a river, using slave labor, or letting Roseanne mean-tweet. Guilt is a close cousin of shame, but pointing inward. It’s regulated by self-judgement, not judgement by others. It weaponizes a person’s insecurities, sense of privilege, immutable characteristics, or lifestyle to change, feel bad, or shame others to change. Some activism thrives on guilt narratives. “Catholic guilt” gave way to guilt for eating meat, being black or white, or having kids before Greta can save Earth. This tactic only works on the meek and unsuccessful. Those with high self-worth can’t be made to feel guilty, but they will use guilt as a tool to align with their chosen tribe. Ultimately, guilt is a weak power source. Real reciprocity must be powered by value. Value perseveres where charity fails. Coercion can scare people into compliance. Jeff Bezos famously – and allegedly – threatened Mark Lore, founder of Diapers.com/Quibi, with underselling him and crushing his business. This bitterness motivated Lore to start Jet.com (acquired by Walmart) to try to take down Amazon. You can see how fast this can become unethical or illegal. I’ve been surprised by how much fuel fear puts in the tank. In the woke witch hunt era, doctors and academics are afraid to speak basic scientific truths, in fear of being fired or scorned by peers. I’d like to believe this is a temporary moral panic that subsides as more people speak up, de-risking it for others. Lies are the most interesting negative intangible. There’s a charming fake-it-till-you-make-it version some successful people have used – fancy offices, misleading websites, exaggerated projections. But once you’re faking blood tests or financials, you’ve exited the Charm Zone. Even the greatest liars eventually crumble, as their conflicting tales collide beyond their control. Finally… Few relationships are one-to-one. Most pay off over time. Some, never at all. It’s not 1:1. Relationships are a portfolio, where one or two Microsofts absorb the losses for lots of Pets.coms. And with good judgment, we should get better at anticipating which is which. Periodically, it’s worth taking stock of our deeper relationships with friends, lovers, spouses, colleagues. (Especially if you have both a spouse and a lover.) Take that Marie Kondo moment to ask, ‘Does this relationship bring me joy?’ If not, end it. If it does, invest, especially, if you’re the one slacking. Worthy relationships can’t stay lopsided forever. Marie Kondo This is a work in progress. My thoughts on this are still evolving. Stay tuned for Part 4 in this mini-series: Trust. Even on an ongoing basis, it’s healthy to take stock of our deeper relationships with friends, lovers, spouses, colleagues. Take that Marie Kondo moment to ask, ‘Does this relationship bring me joy?’ If not, end it. If it does, invest in it, especially if you’re the one slacking. This is a work in progress. My thoughts on this are still evolving. Stay tuned for Part 4 in this mini-series: Trust. Until then, please share, subscribe to The McFuture newsletter, review on Apple Podcasts, and support on Patreon.
21 minutes | Nov 4, 2021
MLK Was Wrong: Friends Are NOT Allies
https://youtu.be/ZrX-jBJyBnM “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King Jr. I saw this quote by MLK online. It made me wonder, are friends also allies – or are they wildly different? As your self-anointed Friendship Yogi (Frogi?), I’ve come to some thrilling conclusions. Let’s with the end and work backwards. Friends are not allies and allies are not friends Both are rare There’s a new industry making us think they’re not Only one reliable type of ally remains People Are Not Nations Since the term “ally” comes up a lot with countries, let’s make the distinction. In the 1960s, French President de Gaulle said, “France has no friends, only interests.” Not only does this hold true today, but it applies to all nations. Nations don’t play golf, get smashed at Smashmouth concerts, or methodically split the odd dumpling at a spiteful restaurant. Nations can’t be “friends”, only people can. Allies are the best they can hope for. Even that relationship is tenuous. By the time Trump made ‘America-first’ and Biden botched our Afghanistan withdrawal, our allies got the hint. They want to ride inside the escape jet, not cling to the wing. France is now pushing Europe to build up its military. Japan just authorized its biggest military budget since WWII. Unreliable allies push countries towards new allies or self-reliance. Skittishness is one trait national and individual allies share. Maybe I’ll explore that in the future. Now, let’s focus on PEOPLE. 1. Friends are not allies, allies are not friends First, let’s define the terms. I thought I’d need my own definitions, but dictionary.com offers a decent start: Friend: “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard” Ally: “a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose” – Dictionary.com There are explicit and implicit differences between the two. What’s explicit is where their loyalties lie. A friend’s loyalties are “attached to another” person. Allies aren’t bonded to each other, but to a “common cause or purpose”. If that cause vanishes or an ally abandons it, the alliance ends. We’ve seen this throughout history with religions. Apostates get excommunicated – if they’re lucky. Murdered, if they drew the fundamentalist short straw. Bonds of faith supersede those of friendship, blood, or marriage. We’ve seen this with nations, too. In Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and a lesser extent, McCarthy’s America, loyalty to country meant turning in your friends. Same today in North Korea, where treachery is the least of your problems. China has an entire Social Credit System to root out Xihadists, from the comfort of your Huawei. In these countries, bonds of nationalism hold, while “feelings of affection or personal regard” wither. Never underestimate man’s hunger for purpose and belonging – and fear of losing them. We’re starting to see this kind of fervor in the US. The cults of Wokeism, cancel culture, intersectionality, and personality (like pro- and anti-Trump) are forging tribal alliances, not friendships. You can tell which bonds are stronger by which ones are breaking. How many families and friendships have been obliterated by dissent over these dogmas? What’s implicit in all this is sacrifice. There’s no such thing as an ally without sacrifice. But not sacrifice for you. Allies might die for a cause…or just tweet about it. That’s the difference between eating steak and being steak. Someone’s past is often a good indicator. But you won’t know for sure, until the dinner bell rings…and a sacrifice is needed. Allyship is also laden with false indicators. Any sacrifice that also benefits your “ally” personally, isn’t really a sacrifice for a cause. It’s a calculated risk. This is common with co-workers. When a colleague helps you secure a budget for a risky project, are they doing it to save the company or a promotion? You might never know. That’s fine – if you accept it. It’s crushing when they’re nowhere to be found when the next battle doesn’t benefit them. Friends are different. A friend is expected to be there for you emotionally and maybe financially, not take up your battles and causes. Your life’s journey is your own. For example, I consider fans who listen to my podcast, subscribe on Patreon, read my articles, share, comment, review – allies in growing my voice. Few will slay my enemies in cold blood. Even fewer are friends. Just like I don’t vacation with my patrons, I don’t hold grudges against friends who don’t support my work, though it’s nice when they do. 2. Both Friends and Allies are rare In a previous newsletter/podcast, I explored “Why Our FriendShip Sailed”. Modern friendships are held together by weak bonds of interest, not sturdy bonds of necessity. But it’s not just friendships. All strong bonds are weakening. Dwindling faith, community, and family opens the door to Bitcoin, Wokeism, psychedelics, mediation, politics and countless other pseudo-religions I covered in The Future of Belief. These recreational faiths shift friends to allies because their bonds are stronger. But only by comparison. Stronger doesn’t mean STRONG. Don’t expect jolly Jihads, cutthroat Crusades or incurious Inquisitions. Our new allies will celebrate our edgy ideas, research, and ventures from the safety of their safespaces. All the people yelling, “Promote women!” “Elevate LatinX voices!” LatinXs?? I don’t even know what LatinXs are! And neither do Latinos. Because you made it up seven seconds ago. No one’s risking their job for your cause. Sure, a few poseurs will post black squares on Instagram from the comfort of their parents’ vacation home in New Hampshire, but no one’s elevating anything unless it elevates them too. It all goes back to sacrifice. We’re lucky to live in a time that demands so little of it. With few existential threats, loyalties rarely get tested. But I suspect when push comes to shove, most “allies” won’t even wait for the push. You’ll look around and they’re gone. “Hey! We weren’t even…pushed…!?” If you get fired, cancelled or somehow impaired, only a tiny handful of allies – those co-dependent on you, may be willing to risk resources, career, or reputation to support you. Yes, our allies, much like our new faiths, are recreational. There’s also flipside to sacrifice: reciprocity. I’ll cover that in my next newsletter and podcast. 3. The Ally-Industrial Complex Our hunger for purpose and belonging is ripe for opportunism. Meet The Ally-Industrial Complex. It takes just a smattering of Tweets from anonymous losers to scare a corporation, feign a movement, or sack a scapegoat. Yes, even fake allies produce real results. If only this power could be harnessed… Well, it has. We’re in a Grifter Renaissance. Every Tweet is a tiny gust of wind that powers a fleet of politicians, talking heads, profiteers, trainers, activists, and every imaginable interest group towards piles of money, power, fame, and status. But Tweets need causes. In the absence of existential ones, performative ones can be crafted from gripes, grievances, and Trump Tweets. The more impossible their demands, the more outrage they’ll generate when they inevitably fall short. Stephen Pinker’s head would explode trying to explain how we’re living in miraculous times. Disease, poverty, and war are disappearing. No. One. Cares. The dinghies of discontent are built, and they will reach shore. And the more causes there are, the more incoherent the discontent. Hypocrisies start to tumble and collide, like Rugrats on meth. Science and conspiracies are adopted or denounced based on what channel they’re on. from Jonathan Haidt Some identities flow like rivers, others are locked in granite, for eternity. And strangers online decide which is which. Gender Spectrum Rachel Dolezal: Banished Calm Online Opinion-Haver Trust and hate of government are equally fluid. Inconvenient histories are re-written or erased. Female empowerment is a huge priority, just not in countries with a dollop of oil. Corporate power is too great, except when it’s just GREAT! Groups invite you to stand with them for one cause, then kick your privileged ass out for another. “I’m P.O.C.!” “No, no, I’m not… I’m so sorry…” Even math is guilty of something and must be stopped. Yes, my friends, we have become imbeciles. Puppets to profiteers. Patsies for power-seekers. Unworthy allies. Yet the Allyship Industry perseveres. Strange, incoherent, manipulative. Fueled by that which destroys us. Its goals are not ours. It’s not too late. There are just causes and worthy allies. But they demand reason, not ideology. And our actions must be moral and principled. Maybe start by asking what cause you’d be willing to – OK, not die – but lose your job for? I discussed mine here. 4. The Final Alliance There’s only one consistent source of worthy allies. Our genitals. Family is the last bastion of strong bonds and reliable allies. Few others will do more to help you find work, protect you from bullies, take you in after a bad breakup, babysit your kids, or help pay for rehab. It’s a powerful hybrid of friend and ally. Nearly every one of our new causes would start to vanish if we got family right. You can see this in practice. Pick a day when people are looting Target in your favorite city. Then, start driving. The further you get, the more schools and playgrounds, the fewer flaming big box retailers. Would you rather help someone make Molotov cocktails or watch their kids while they get ice cream? Unfortunately, family is waning in the west. I’ll explore this in future episodes. Coming next in this series: reciprocity, trust, and dogmas. Until then, please subscribe, share with others, and support on Patreon. Steve
26 minutes | Sep 2, 2021
15 Tactics That Protect Elites & Enforce Status Quo [Patreon Peek]
https://youtu.be/vIoerJGrroc A very special peek at a great episode for Patreon members about 15 sneaky tactics establishment institutions use to protect status quo. You can also watch this (and subscribe) on YouTube. To hear the full episode, sign up on Patreon for this and lots of member exclusives for only $5 a month. If you enjoy this, please like/share/review/subscribe on: YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS Support on Patreon for killer exclusives & pre-releases!
44 minutes | Aug 3, 2021
Victoria’s [Dumbest] Secret | The McFuture Podcast
https://youtu.be/LAE-OYDakKI Fashion runways are about to look VERY DIFFERENT… Is it possible to resurrect a dying brand that was built on TWO MASSIVE LIES? Why Victoria’s Secret is about to learn this lesson the hard way. Awesome episode on Victoria’s Secret reinvention. Warning: mature themes & immature humor ahead! Watch this episode (and subscribe) on YouTube to see it in all its graphic glory. If you enjoy this, please like/share/review/subscribe on: YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS Support on Patreon for killer exclusives & pre-releases!
33 minutes | Jul 20, 2021
Why our FriendSHIP Sailed
https://youtu.be/4JHsLJH0Rdk This might sound crazy, but the TV show ‘Friends’ was even more preposterous than suspected…by New Yorkers, real estate agents, and psychiatrists. Like scraping together $500 for an emergency, most Americans can’t find three friends to rub together – much less five, in a luxury apartment, without rats the size of dachshunds. As recently as 2004, the average American was satisfied with nine close friends, but a recent Gallup survey showed that number plummeting, especially for men. Why?? Let’s explore why this is happening and how we might be able to salvage this titanic social trend. Friendship, Sinking Here are Gallup’s findings: In 1990, only 3% said they had no close friends. Today, it’s up to 12%! The rest of the chart isn’t much rosier. Except for how many claimed to have 10 or more close friends. That dropped from 33% in 1990 to 13% today. Good. No one has that many close friends, besides Santa and Putin. In fact, there might be some definitional issues with the survey. Where does each person set their bar for “close friend”? Here’s my “close friend” spectrum: Calls you on your birthday Drives you to the airport Helps you move Lets you crash in their home for a month Lends you $2,000 Helps you hide a body Anything less and they’re not friends, they’re Pokemon. https://twitter.com/ideafaktory/status/1275515767874781187 Things are worse among men. Today, 15% say they have no close friends. Though both sexes showed major declines and 50% of each have three or fewer close friends. In The Economics of Happiness I declared “happiness is the last thing left to innovate”. Given how strongly friendships predict life satisfaction, we’re sliding towards a serious happiness epidemic. And neither bat nor Fauci can help. Why is This happening? There are many reasons for declining friendships. Here’s my hypothesis on four big ones in the US. I suspect many developed countries have similar issues. 1. Aging Crew Youth is a time of discovery…and captivity. We’re shepherded from school to sports to to parties to camps (summer, not labor) – with hordes of other kids our age. We make friends, discover music, find and smoke our parents’ pot. But as we age, everything about us freezes in time. We settle on Elton John, a short list of favorite fritters, a haircut from our glory days, and a handful of comfy, relationships. Discovery ends. We become our parents. Now, imagine this happens to an entire country. In 1980, the median age of an American was 30. Still young enough to get past the bouncer at a club. Today, the median American is pushing 40 – and being dragged out of Studio 54, for looking 44. As Tiny Dancer blares from the radio on our ride back to the burbs, and the bleeding subsides, we know our days of discovery are over. Barring any extraordinary feats of rejuvenation. Lip fillers. And since it’s now fashionable to break everything down by race, what kind of unfashionable monster would I be to avoid it? White people so old. So, so old. Even in a chart ending in 2014, the median white…aka vanilla…was over 43! Practically, eating steak from a blender. Other races are inching upward, too. But besides Asians, all others were under 35. (If you can find a more current chart, let me know.) This makes me think of my dad, now 81, who I’m told is white, even though we’re Soviet immigrants who spent most of my child hood stomping roaches. He’s a reasonably healthy former engineer, who follows current events. He can work the internet, Android, and WhatsApp…at the approximate speed of global warming. He has three Kindles, for some God-forsaken reason. And, my number for unlimited tech support, a Groupon I don’t remember offering. Yet, he has no friends. Where’s he going to meet them? On FOX News FriendFinder? (That’s not a half-bad idea… They can call them Silver Foxes or Antiqfa.) It’s sad he has no access to male camaraderie, intimacy, or an outlet to complain about my mom, who incidentally has friends, and wow do they get an earful! From the macro to the micro, it’s not hard to extrapolate our recent political tensions and all the insecurity that comes with your best days – and relationships – entering the rear view mirror. 2. SinkinG birth rate When you look deeper at why our median age is rising, a big factor is birth rates. They are PLUMMETING – here and across every developed nation. The connection with friendships isn’t obvious, but hang in there… Child-free adults convince ourselves we’re going to conquer industry, become Thelma and Louise, and live out every wild, care-free fantasy. Nope. We settle. In houses. With dogs. And Hondas. Not one car chase or gunfight to our name. This isn’t even Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – or Travelling Wilburys. This is suburbia. And suburbia demands KIDS! Not only are kids the main business model for the burbs – and 40-somethings, but kids are the final friend-discovery mechanism for adults. Long after we’re far too hideous and decrepit to meet people in schools, bars, clubs, and parties, there’s kids. Their schooling, activities, and other obligations become our way of meeting and bonding with those who share a common purpose – keeping them off the pole and off the dole. Even socially, without kids as a binder, middle-aged couples, divorcees, and singles have all the chemistry and majesty of a tent city under a bridge in LA. What’s left? The dog park? Fido’s poop is not the stuff great friendships are made of. 3. PIlgrimage to cities As I wrote in The Economics of Happiness, we’re crowded, but alone. 3. CROWDED BUT ALONE No culture exalts individuality, independence, and hero worship like the US. That approach has created some revolutionary entrepreneurs and iconic achievements. But these days even when our heroes collaborate, they produce something more like The Avengers – a collective of self-absorbed assholes who prefer to do their own thing, in their own way, for their own reasons. Now imagine more people than ever being able to trade-in their “we” for “me”. That’s exactly what happened. We’re on our own. Alone. By choice. Men and women started earning enough money to stay single longer. Pets and roommates replaced spouses. Those who do marry, divorce more often despite evidence that married people live longer. Birth rates in the West plummeted as it became cheaper to buy a yacht than raise a child. Many Americans would rather Kickstart a stranger’s company than pay for diapers and day care. Plus, old age just isn’t as scary in a world where meat arrives on Styrofoam instead of on its own four legs. Long, child-free lives shift the burden of happiness from family and community to career…and the occasional trip to Jamaica. All our eggs sit in the work basket, hoping they hatch happiness – if we sit on them long enough. – The Economics of Happiness But we can’t talk about the rise of lonesome cities, with their hordes of Tinder zombies and office drones, without discussing the hollowing out of small towns and suburbs. As blue collar work disappeared, so did youth, searching for opportunities. Their departure left aging husks of loosely employable residents, invisible to the information economy. Too old to re-train. Too tethered to depreciated homes with nearly-paid off mortgages. Some are addicted to prescription pacifiers or meth. Great friendships rarely spawn from decay. And we have lots of decay. And the youth who left weren’t much happier for it. A whopping 22 percent of millennials say they have “no friends”. Trading community for tiny cubicles, tiny apartments, and a tiny taste of polyamory seems quite Faustian. 4. Capsizing of Community When I first started thinking about our friendpocalypse, the first suspect was my phone. As I dictated my notes into its comforting abyss, I wondered, ‘Is this little time thief – and these avatars my…friends?’ Will any one of them rush over to clear my search history, if I suddenly die watching a Victoria’s Secret runway show? But this trend pre-dates social media. In his terrific book Bowling Alone (published in 2000), Robert Putnam sifts through vast amounts of data on how we’ve become disconnected from family, friends, neighbors. It’s only now becoming more noticeable. Just like the pandemic accelerated trends we were already seeing – remote work, remote healthcare, online delivery, mobile payments – social media did the same to community and relationships. As we branch out to form virtual communities, we find them unwieldy, fleeting, cold, and lonely. Because they’re held together by weak bonds of interest (“I love sushi, too!”), not sturdy bonds of mutual necessity (“Let’s fix Bob’s roof!”). Digital relationships are like M&M’s – satiation without nourishment. They create a placebo effect that slowly robs us of humanity. Tech got way ahead of us. Our biology, psychology, economy and culture haven’t adjusted. And maybe never will. Maybe we triggered some weird new form of Darwinism, where only Kardashians and TikTokers survive, because they’re genetically optimized for “followers”, not “friends”. In the meantime, we’re still tribal. That need for community remains innate, but increasingly out of reach. 3. We’re still tribal. We don’t rely on communities for physical survival anymore. Much of that has been outsourced to government and industry. Social security, sanitation, police, 401K’s, etc. Americans move out of the house by 18 (or run away by 12), but we still crave community. Ever wonder why there’s a Chinatown in every major city on Earth? (Even more in China!) We crave the company of others like us. Tribes were always built on need – finding, defending or capturing scarce resources. Or, an irrational love or hate of someone or something – real or imagined. With need gone, we cling to the irrational to glue our new, shoddy tribes together. – 5 REASONS WHY BULLSH!T WON Is This Bad? What if we could use more quality time alone with Minecraft? Maybe the digital world works for many. And if you’re still reading this, you chose to spend it with me, a virtual stranger, instead of speaking with a co-worker or calling a sick friend. I might not even be real, just some bot tossing word salads. Well, all the evidence shows this isn’t working. As friendship declines, depression, drug use, suicides, shootings and and countless mental health indicators flash red. Only so many of these can be blamed on Tucker Carlson or Karl Marx. People are breaking down, focusing on the wrong things, withering in isolation, often self-imposed. The good news is there’s hope. what now, Captain? Without realizing it, since 2010, I anticipated and mused about the many deaths that brought us to loneliness – death of masculinity, analog happiness, tolerance, truth, and the American dream. Today, they’re chapters in America’s autobiography. They chronicle the rise of people like Jordan Peterson and more broadly, self-help, therapy, wellness, and self-medication. So what’s next? I won’t pretend to have all the answers. But below are my best clues, so far, on how to overcome our loneliness epidemic. [I’ll leave the broader challenge of happiness – and what institutions can do – for another time, but you can start with The Economics of Happiness. Over time, I’ll build on these themes in this newsletter and on The McFuture podcast and Patreon, so subscribe!] I divided potential solutions into three categories – stopping, starting, and hoping. Stopping Our days are filled with activities that drive isolation. I truly believe that those who can resist porn, social media, and other digital temptations will not only have a huge evolutionary advantage, but unlock countless hours to engage with others in meatspace. (No, meatspace is not my new adult website. It’s my shorthand for the real world.) Who better to model what we shouldn’t do than those who built our e-ddictions? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley titans don’t let their kids near their own monstrosities. Their kids build go-karts, knit, cook and ostensibly, calculate their inheritances on an abacus. This is no accident. https://twitter.com/ideafaktory/status/1034682752451457024 Drugs, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, gaming, and overconsumption of entertainment, and overstimulation are all the things I did before writing this… The temptations are real. But the more of these we can stop doing, the more capacity we unlock for healthy activities. Like what? Starting In 2019, I wrote… Life is servitude to our obligations. All contentment depends on it. Obligations we choose bring satisfaction and joy. Ones imposed or mandated by circumstances feel oppressive. – Obligations I think the key to life – and reconnecting to others – is ruthlessly seizing control of our obligations – the implicit and explicit promises we make to our children, partners, and others we care about. In a world that doesn’t need us, we must make ourselves needed. We simulate the necessity modernity took from us. For most people, that means having a family. I know that doesn’t sound especially hip or enlightened. But family always was – and will continue to be – the glue for every successful society throughout history. It also tethers us to reality in ways nothing else can. Not friendships. Certainly, not work. Comedian Tim Dillon said it best, “Very few people are going to have a career that fulfills them on a level where they don’t have to have kids.” I have friends without kids who are constantly finding new adventures. They’re satisfied with their lives and relationships. But others are desperately low on Netflix series to binge and new booties for their cats. Whether it was by conscious choice or cruel circumstance, this is a ship that always sails. Take it from a guy who’s watching his leave port. Almost as important, is defining our values and living by our principles. This one’s not getting easier. With faith declining across the west, there’s no other vessel for values on the horizon. If there were, it would probably come from China, piloted by Captain John Cena and his crew of Uighur slaves. (In The Future Is Belief, I explore the chaotic state of filling the faith-sized hole in our lives.) Those with stable finances and a useful skill can find meaning in helping those in need. For a long time, I taught success skills to high schoolers through Junior Achievement, but you do you. Just like faking a smile eventually makes you happier, helping others is the greatest form of self-help because it creates bonds that lead to discovery, that lead to meaning. Do enough meaningful things and eventually, they add up to purpose. There are even “family-on-demand” services like Papa that match youth to lonely retirees. On paper, it’s perfectly engineered to steal their savings. No, I’m joking! It’s actually a great way to solve the loneliness dilemma, but I wonder if we have the will to make this model a success. I once speculated that daily exercise, healthy diet, and a puppy could replace 70-90% of America’s therapy and antidepressant use. Just look at this chart and tell me we’re not being milked for profit. As a first-time dog-owner, there’s nothing like a puppy’s bowel movements to force you out of the house regularly to engage with the world. The cuter the dog or sadder the rescue story, the faster you’ll make friends – or slowly descend into embarrassing baby talk with this furry ignoramus. Hoping Economics, politics, technology, and culture have powerful secondary effects on our lives. But I put them in the “hope” bucket. Most are beyond our control. At best, we benefit by understanding them. Changing them requires years of organization, toil and commitment – with no guarantee of progress. I’m not sayin not to fight for grand visions. They do matter. And they can help you meet others who share your passion. But if we’re solving for friendship, helping those around us, in humble but tangible ways, packs much more bang for the buck. OK, this piece is far too long, already. To be continued… If you enjoyed this, please share with others. The permanent weblink is here. (Or unsubscribe using the link below.) Listen to this episode on The McFuture Podcast on your favorite podcast app or YouTube & support my work on Patreon, with lots of member exclusives, including forthcoming healthcare book. Follow my raw, malformed ideas on LinkedIn & Twitter. If your company needs a killer speaker, help figuring out the future, growth strategy, or what/how to innovate, email IdeaFaktory here.
88 minutes | May 20, 2021
BAD HELPERS with TORRAINE WALKER | The McFuture Podcast
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emHvE3yv5fo Torraine Walker is a writer, activist and founder of Context Media Group. He joins Steve Faktor for a smoking-hot, no-BS conversation about race, Black Lives Matter, policing, education and the black family. THIS is the honest conversation everyone says they want, but really don’t. This is how two people with very different perspectives can find common ground, shared humanity, and have a few laughs at Alissa Milano’s expense. If you enjoy this, please like/share/review/subscribe on: YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS Support on Patreon for killer exclusives & pre-releases!
41 minutes | May 11, 2021
BasecampFIRE: How ‘Woke’ Broke An Iconic Tech Firm, ARE YOU NEXT? | The McFuture Podcast
https://youtu.be/rWtbJP7lDYU?sub_confirmation=1 Basecamp is an iconic tech firm with outspoken founders that’s collapsing from wokeness. Your company and career will be next! Here’s their story and the profound and hilarious survival guide you need. Watch the awesome video version here and please subscribe to the YouTube channel. If you enjoy this, please like/share/review/subscribe on: YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS Support on Patreon for tons of member exclusives & pre-releases!
38 minutes | Apr 17, 2021
THE C-WORD | The McFuture Podcast
https://youtu.be/wgVvVoa-Byk In this episode – the penultimate in this social media mini-series – I reveal two of the biggest secrets behind cancel culture, who the real government is, and why the next President will be a good little boy or girl. Also, please share the show with others, subscribe/comment on YouTube, and most important – review it on iTunes! This really helps with visibility. Thanks! CONTENTS: 00:38 The New York Times Daycare Center for Won-Percenters 08:36 Kamikaze Saviors? 13:25 The Softest Cancellation 15:40 Dirty Secret of Facebook Groups 17:09 Method = Principle 20:01 Monopoly Insurrections Perks 26:48 The Underlying Stupidity of Alternative Networks 28:14 The Real Impeachment Powers 30:51 The Oral High Ground on China 32:40 Is #FreeSpeech a Civil Right? 35:26 Disappear, Shakespeare! (Links are to YouTube timestamps. You can watch the video here.) If you enjoy this, please like/share/review/subscribe on: YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS Support on Patreon for tons of member exclusives & pre-releases!
34 minutes | Apr 9, 2021
Snitches In Da Clubhouse | The McFuture Podcast
https://youtu.be/DVKHB4axRmY?sub_confirmation=1 In the latest episode, Steve eviscerates the sorry state of journalism, rise of corporate media operations, and the frightening new social network Clubhouse. 00:10 – 4 ways journalism failed us 07:50 – Can VC Andreessen Horowitz start a “corporate media” revolution? And the 3 things they must do to succeed 14:45 – The unholy alliance in media 19:56 – Is Clubhouse the new podcasting or the unfettered destruction of all that we know and love? 24:49 – Annoyed Freud: Deciphering the 7 Motivations of Journalists 28:06 – Who’s the best acquirer for Clubhouse? 31:20 – The Greatest Innovator on Clubhouse Is……..? Please share, comment, subscribe (Timecode links are to the YouTube video you can watch.) If you enjoy this, please like/share/review/subscribe on: YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS Support on Patreon for tons of member exclusives & pre-releases!
22 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
Vaxpertise & The Problem With Experts
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY7E8PkvyEA&modestbranding=1&showinfo=0 America has an expertise problem and it’s not what you think. The latest episode explores the limits of experts and expertise, the problem with “authoritative sources”, and why we’re kicking science in the nuts. Right. In. The. Nuts. (You can also watch it on YouTube here.) If you enjoy this, please like/share/review/subscribe on: YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS Support on Patreon for tons of member exclusives & pre-releases!
20 minutes | Feb 16, 2021
A Word From Our…Chief Discrimination Officer
The one truth NO ONE in corporate dares to discuss about power, diversity, and discrimination. What if the thing hate is also our best hope...? If you work for a corporation or have a business, you won't want to miss this episode.
22 minutes | Feb 5, 2021
99 Racists | The McFuture Podcast w/Steve Faktor
You'll laugh, get mad & think for days about immigrants, racism, China & Steve's hypocrisy in this killer pod from a heated debate w/an ungrateful immigrant friend
57 minutes | Dec 15, 2020
Lord of the Fries | Mistweeted by Steve Faktor #9 | The McFuture Podcast
HOW DARE YOU miss this episode of The McFuture on philosophy, self-improvement & wayward youth!?
45 minutes | Dec 4, 2020
MEDIA MONSTERS | Mistweeted by Steve Faktor #8B | The McFuture Podcast
Steve Faktor's rowdy romp through the heroes and monsters who control free speech.
33 minutes | Nov 19, 2020
ECONAMASTE | Mistweeted by Steve Faktor 8A | The McFuture Podcast
Another gem featuring Steve Faktor's wisdom & wisecracks on economics & finance with a touch of Zen only he (or Steven Seagal) could deliver
36 minutes | Nov 1, 2020
…Entrepreneurs Are From Venus | Mistweeted by Steve Faktor # 7D | The McFuture Podcast
Wisdom & wisecracks about entrepreneurship, success and strategy for every entrepreneur, founder and freelancer.
47 minutes | Oct 29, 2020
Employees Are From Mars… | Mistweeted by Steve Faktor | The McFuture Podcast
wisdom & wisecracks about innovation, corporate work and the technology takeover.
26 minutes | Oct 27, 2020
The Pandemigod | Mistweeted by Steve Faktor #7B | The McFuture Podcast
What's the bottom line on this never-ending pandemic, lockdowns & all our saviors. And why is Steve Faktor so annoyed at Anthony Fauci?
39 minutes | Oct 23, 2020
BEAUTIFUL BULLSHITTERS | Mistweeted by Steve Faktor #7A | The McFuture Podcast
A tour de force of Steve Faktor's madness DECONSTRUCTED by topic. POLITICS covers revolution, bullshitters vs liars, conspiracy queens, fixing voting & stripping
38 minutes | Oct 1, 2020
Rumble in the Nursing Home: Presidenture Debate 1 LIVE with Steve Faktor
Steve Faktor's pre- & post-debate m̷o̷n̷o̷l̷o̷g̷u̷e̷s̷ rants from this week's Presidenture Debate. Politics suck.
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